Why your reality is not THE reality

What you perceive as reality, the way you perceive your body, others, and your environment is not reality at all. It is now neuroscientifically proven that you and I always dream. Not only at night – also right now at this moment. You may be awake, but you only see what your brain reproduces to the outside world. When it comes to eating disorders, this realization can help us remember that how you see your body doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. Others will certainly see your body very differently. So let yourself be inspired by this article: “Your reality is not THE reality” ♥

What shapes our subjective reality

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The world as you know it does not exist. Everyone perceives their subjective world distorted by their feelings and thoughts. Your thoughts ALWAYS shape your evaluation of things and thus your perception. You are constantly looking at the world and yourself as if through a filter. What you have experienced in your life so far, your beliefs, what others have said to you … shape your perception. I would even go so far as to say that you see what you (subconsciously) want to see.

You look in the mirror and there you see... a healthy body, maybe even a mid-size body. And yet others tell you that you are too thin, that you should eat more. And yet a part of you says: you're "big enough, you don't have to gain weight anymore". This eating disordered part of you shapes your perception from the moment you look in the mirror. Maybe there were "negative" thoughts BEFORE you looked at your body in the mirror, these influence your perception of yourself. - As a consequence, you don't see yourself the way others might see you. Others who might look at you with a more loving eye.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if there were no thoughts, comparisons or feelings? That would perhaps be the objective reality – but so far no one has experienced this world and will not in the future either, because we subconsciously categorise, interpret, compare and evaluate every millisecond what we perceive with our sense organs. Par tout, that’s not a bad thing, because it helps us to cope in everyday life, to recognize dangerous situations quickly and to be able to link things logically.

Maybe you know this: You were friends with someone for years or even in a romantic relationship. You probably found the person pretty or attractive. Then something happened between you, the person lied to you, let you down or cheated on you – and suddenly you see the person with a completely different eye. You may find the person who was once beautiful to be repulsive and forget what you ever saw in that person. So, there are high chances, that your reality is not THE reality, right?

deine Wirklichkeit ist nicht die Realität | your reality is not THE reality

Science behind perception

Our perception takes place in two ways: first from the outside in (bottom up), and almost simultaneously from the inside out (bottom down). The bottom-up perception starts with the sensory stimulus, which is perceived by your sensory organs, this stimulus is passed on to your brain via sensory nerves. There, an inner representation of what is perceived is created, which is then compared with previous knowledge so that we also know what to do with the new information. You look in the mirror and see your body. Maybe you’ve gained weight and because what you’re seeing now is different from what you saw in the mirror months ago, you think you’ve gained quite a bit, when you may actually not have gained that much.

The top-down processing is primarily controlled by our previous knowledge, our expectations and goals. The brain uses these pre-existing structures and transmits them to the sense organs – thus affecting how we perceive certain things. It is precisely when we are in recovery and start eating more – perhaps even honouring extreme hunger – that we know that we are in an energy-surplus and will gain weight. We expect that we’ve gotten “fatter” – it shapes how you perceive yourself. You have probably gained 50g, but your brain is fooling you into thinking that you have gained a lot more weight and actually look “completely normal” again. So, it´s safe to say: YOUR reality is not THE reality.

How you can use this knowledge for yourself

You cannot turn off your thoughts, your feelings and your experiences. You don’t even have to. You are allowed to make peace with all the parts of yourself. Rejection and self-criticism will not help you change your behaviours or thoughts. In order for something to change, we first have to learn to accept radically. As long as we reject ourselves and the eating disorder, we put all our energy into what we actually don’t want and the more the “negative” shapes our perception.

  • Reframe your beliefs. For example, you associate “being thin” with “being successful” in some way – you can replace this belief with “I am successful because I work for it, regardless of what my body looks like”. But make sure that you don’t use the word “not” in your new beliefs.
  • Be careful not to compare yourself to others. Someone else’s beauty doesn’t take away yours. We all have different needs and need different amounts of food. We all have our own individual set points and are not meant to be the same.
  • Instead of directly believing the thoughts and evaluations of your eating disorder self, pause and consider what your “healthy” self would say – how does that part see the current situation? Give this part more of your attention. remember: your reality is not THE reality.
deine Wirklichkeit ist nicht die Realität | your reality is not THE reality

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