by Paul Hazelden


These ideas can be expressed in many different ways; this is just one approach which seems helpful.

Many people live with a number of problems, and there are all kinds of sources of help for most of these problems: books, internet sites, support groups, training courses, and so on.

All these techniques are helpful, but they only help if you know you have a problem and are willing to face it. Once you admit you have a problem with debt or drugs, many people are willing to help you overcome it.

Other types of help are needed if you have a problem but are not yet ready to address it - this is often the case with addiction.

Things are even more difficult with the problems we are not aware of - not just the 'pre-contemplation' phase of the addict, but a lack of awareness that such a problem exists.

The big unvoiced struggle most of us live with, is the way we seek to come to terms with reality.

Three key aspects of this struggle can be expressed in the following terms.


  Reality is unknown

We don't live in the real world.

We actually live in the world we believe in.

There is a real world, but we don't know what it is.

  Reality is broken

The world is not the way you want it to be.

The world is not the way it should be.

  Reality is different

Different people believe different things, so they live in different worlds.

Other people really are different to you, and the world they live in is really different, too.

The words we use to describe reality often give a big clue to the reality being lived, and sometimes they shape the reality being lived.


So why does this matter?

I constantly hear people commenting about other people and their behaviour: "How can they do it?" "It's ridiculous!" "It's absurd!" "It's insane!" "It's wrong!"

After years of observation, it seems to me that people very rarely do anything they consider to be ridiculous, absurd, insane or wrong. They do what seems right to them - or, at least, what seems to be the least wrong. What they do makes sense to them, even if it does not make sense to you.

If you do not understand the other person, and why they act in the way they do, you cannot hope to change their mind and persuade them that you are right.

So the great challenge is to understand the other person.

Without understanding, nothing of significance can be achieved.

It's a familiar saying that one person's freedom-fighter is another person's terrorist. Our words construct a reality, and our behaviour is determined by that reality.

Once we really come to terms with the fact that my perception of the situation is no more than that, my perception, and your perception may be quite different; once we know that other people can see the same things as us but respond to them completely differently, then we have a starting point for understanding what is really going on, and the possibility of resolving our differences. Or, at least, of handling our differences in a constructive manner.

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Copyright © 2011 Paul Hazelden was last updated 11 February 2011
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