Picking up from the Introduction to Integral Thinking I posted a while ago, it’s time to put my book into integral terms. I’ll go chapter by chapter so as to keep things manageable.
The first chapter of Healing The Unhappy Caveman is called, “The Truth About Truth.” It is essentially about the relationship between UL (upper left quadrant – individual subjective) and UR (upper right quadrant – individual objective). Though I had no knowledge of integral thinking at the time I was writing the book (2002-2004), I had a sense that my message would lack real gravitas if I didn’t immediately address the relationship between objective reality and what we, as individuals, experience of it.
The gist of my stance is there is theoretically such a thing as absolute truth. In integral terms, there is an objective reality (the two right quadrants) that is quite independent of what subjective minds (the two left quadrants) might think about it. (Yes, I believe a tree falling in the forest makes a sound even if no one is around.) Of course, the trouble comes when you try to do something with that reality – measure it, describe it, manipulate it, etc. At that point, subjective interpretations of that objective reality are in play. And for us, with our impressive, yet limited, abilities to truly perceive reality, the result is a mental model of our world that is both massively reliable and relative to its core.
The model is reliable because the pieces fit together most of the time. Though the notion of red as a color is an artificial construct of our minds, it works well enough that we can use it to describe things that are similar in color, even if they’re different in every other way – apples and fire trucks, for example. It is relative to the extreme because everything we know (or believe we know, to be exact) is related to something else we know (or believe we know). And if you keep deconstructing things you know or believe into their component pieces, you eventually wind up in the land of the very, very, very small – the quantum world. And there…well, everything is a guess, an approximation, a probabilistic measure of absolute reality.
So, I assert that a critical step in making progress toward ridding our lives of unhappiness is coming to grips with the limitations our minds impose on us when it comes to interpreting reality. Now, I’m not suggesting, not even for a moment, that we should just interpret reality however we want because we acknowledge that we can never be sure. Quite the contrary. I argue that there are two very important things to take from this realization.
- We need to get comfortable with uncertainty, and we need to run like hell from anyone or anything that requires us to maintain a stance of certainty about anything
- Though we recognize that we can never be sure, we should endeavor to get our subjective version of reality to align as closely as possible with absolute reality</li?
And what exactly does all this truth talk have to do with happiness? Well, the short answer is that the more your UL perspective on reality differs from a UR perspective on reality, the more likely it is that you’ll be unhappy. I believe unhappiness generally comes from pervasive frustration – life just isn’t turning out as it was supposed to turn out. If this happens for long enough, we become unhappy. And what is the number one source of frustration? I say it is mis-set expectations. Things aren’t turning out like they were supposed to because our expectations were unrealistic (the UR kind of realistic, that is). And why would we have unrealistic expectations? Bingo! Because there’s a disparity between our UL interpretation of reality and the more concrete UR perspective of reality.
So… it makes good sense to be aware of the significant differences between these two perspectives. Chapter 2 discusses a method for aligning them with one another as much as possible. Stay tuned…