View Full Version : Alternate Reality Theory of Mental Health

08-07-15, 10:02 AM
Hi all,

I've actually been toying with the idea of writing a book; the working title is the subject tag of this thread.

You can probably infer what the book would be about, but I would be coming at the subject from a number of angles:

1) On a very practical level, the way we see and interact with the world is vastly different from person to person.

That's why three people can have a conversation and afterward, person 1 thinks person 3 was a jerk, while person 2 thinks person 3 was kind and considerate.

That's why a cop at a traffic collision will interview 50 people and not have a single consistent fact among them, from colour to make & model of the vehicle, to the race, gender and age of the driver.

2) From what has been learned in quantum physics, particles exist in all possible states until they are observed. No physicist has managed to explain what it is about observation that changes the outcome.

Meanwhile, there are theorists out there that suggest that the only way to resolve physics is by acknowledging the possibility that there is more than one reality.

An article on quantum physics and the brain suggested that the unseen stimuli experienced by people with schizophrenia may in fact be that their brains and/or their senses are tuned to a broader spectrum of reality than their peers.

I postulate that physically, each and every one of us might exist in a separate reality and that we only believe in the existence of a single reality because of our shared experiences. And some of those shared experiences may only exist on the surface. For example, we both look at a tree and agree that the leaves are green. Do we both actually see the same colour? Or is it possible that we share the same label for two different experiences because we grew up being told that leaves are green. For someone who is colour blind, their reality is a little bit more different, so they're unable to share in that experience.


The most important conclusion from both of these branches is that there is no universal truth. And ultimately many of our disagreements in this world cannot be definitively resolved with solid proof.

I view peoples' realities like Venn diagrams, with all the common experiences in the overlap, and the experiences that aren't shared on the fringes.

For example, for a fictional pair of people:

Things they agree on: The earth is round, a sunset is beautiful, having a job is an important part of life...

Things outside the overlap in person 1's circle: Hugs are pleasant, gravity is a particle, sunlight is to be avoided at all costs.

Things outside the overlap in person 2's circle: David Hasslehoff is a talented musician, gravity is a force, the tropics are an ideal vacation spot.

For most of us, we have enough of an overlap with each other's reality to be able to interact effectively, and with the differences causing minimal friction.

For some of us, our reality is further apart from the people around us (i.e. the overlap in our Venn diagrams is smaller) and this causes things like stress, isolation, disagreements, invalidation, and even cruelty.

An example of things outside the shared experience of someone with ADHD and an NT:

ADHD: The importance of information has no bearing on my ability to remember it. A conversation is boring if it doesn't have at least 10 completely different subjects in 5 minutes. Even if you held a gun to my head I still wouldn't be able to pay attention to that whole meeting/lecture.

NT: If someone forgets something, it's because they didn't care enough about it to remember. A conversation is impossible to follow if it changes subjects quickly. I feel at home in meetings, and lectures last the perfect length of time for me.

I oversimplified, but the idea is that our mental health, self-esteem and our general ability to function in this world declines when that zone of shared experience shrinks. The more of our circle that lies outside of the shared experience of our community, the more likely we will have disagreements, misunderstandings, resentment, feelings of superiority/inferiority, breakdown of trust... The list goes on.

So why does this matter? Because trying to treat these differences in reality with medication cannot be a complete fix. We need to either find ways of acknowledging and accepting differences in reality, refocus on the shared realities we experience, or increase our understanding of the others' realities, thereby increasing that shared experience.

That's just an overview of what I'm thinking of writing about.

Thoughts? Comments?

08-08-15, 07:52 PM
My theory is that we all live in our own world and that reality is a construct of each individual ie we all have our own realities. This doesn't mean that nothing is real or that there can't be things that are real to all of us but the perception and conception of everything is created by us. Not sure that made any sense whatsoever... :lol: anyway, basically I'm agreeing with you.

I think it's quite obvious why in some cases observation of a system interferes with the system and changes that which is observed. I'm not sure what you mean when you say that no one has managed to explain it what it is about observation that changes the outcome as some observations are obviously either invasive or bias the object of observation. Besides, the observer is biased in all kinds of ways too.

Anyway, I agree that there is no universal truth and if there is we can never be sure what it is or who might have it.

When it comes to mental health though I think what matters is not so much variation, ie how different are we from the norm but how impaired are we, i.e. how much less functional are we compared to the norm. I think the core problem with e.g. schizophrenia is not that they may or may not perceive or believe something that is not real but rather that their perception or beliefs hurt them in some way or put them in danger.

I do fully agree that understanding and acceptance of different realities and well just of differences is very important but i dont think that is the only problem. I think a lot of our problems are problematic in their own right, completely independent of anyone else or the rest of society.

I don't think that the purpose of medication is to treat differences in reality but to make someone's reality more tolerable, more fulfilling, more pleasant and more easy to cope with.

08-12-15, 11:14 AM
With observation, I was referring to the classical experiment with photons:

Basically you release a single photon at a plate with two slits. If you are watching the event, the photon will go through one slit or the other. If you're not observing it, it will take every possible path through the plate, even interfering with itself in its journey.

In other words, it's a particle while you're watching, and a wave while you're not.

Sometimes, as you said, you can't observe an event without affecting the system (i.e. you can't measure tire pressure without releasing some air, you can't REALLY know what's in a dark room, because turning on a light means it's no longer a dark room)

There are other instances though, when to the best of our knowledge, our method of observation has no connection to the event being observed, and yet the outcome is still drastically different.

That's where the whole schrodinger's cat thought experiment came from.

Put another way, the answer to the old question about a tree falling in the woods? Until someone has observed the state of the tree, it has both fallen and not, created sound and not, and even exists and doesn't exist at the same time.

Quantum physics is weird.

08-12-15, 09:24 PM
Yes, I know about that though not enough to claim I understand it fully. Anyway, I thought for practical purposes (eg the tree falling) doesn't it depend on perspective? For you the tree doesn't exist till you've learnt of it's existence and it hasn't fallen till it's fall somehow affects your world but for the poor has very much fallen as soon as it's fallen.

As for mental health I think it pertains to more than just how much someone's reality conforms to the standard story of reality. There are a lot of people that believe in stuff that I find absolutely crazy or claim they've experienced something or knowledge of something that I think is highly unlikely to exist but that doesn't make them mentally unhealthy...

08-13-15, 10:48 AM
Part of my point is that there is no "standard story of reality".

I might believe in premonition, and have personal experiences to back it up. I know that the established "reality" for a lot of people is that ESP and its ilk are a load of bunk. I also know that for many it's a real thing.

We grow up with the feeling that there's a "standard story of reality" because we are told that there is one reality that we share. The more I look at the evidence and the experiences of individuals, the more I realize that's not the case.

Most people have significant overlap of their realities; I doubt many would argue that the earth is flat these days, but there was a day when the "standard story of reality" was that the earth was flat. For most intents and purposes, it may as well have been. In that era, if I suggested that the earth was round, I'd be seen as the crazy person!

I agree that it's not the gaps that make the big difference, but the stress in living with that gap. If religion was a large part of my reality, living in Soviet Russia would not have been much fun.

08-13-15, 11:06 AM
Yes, exactly. By standard story of reality j don't mean the one true reality that everybody should experience (i agree that it probably doesn't exist) but the idea of reality that is accepted by the norm. (And by idea of reality I mean, a particular idea of a limited bit of reality that is the prevalent idea in your particular society about that particular topic.)

I'm.not entirely convinced though that it's just the gap between my reality and your reality that is a problem.and leads to.mental health issues. It probably plays a role as well (and not just when it comes to mental health but also as in the examples you gave). I think, some perceptions of reality might in their own right be disturbing. For instance if you are experiences feelings of persecution or paranoia.

I don't know much about schizophrenia but I'm assuming that their own perception of reality changes as well and I think that must be super scary and confusing as well. I mean, as far as I know, psychoses, e.g. are usually episodic and temporary and their content can be negative, disturbing or scary in nature.

Also, most disorders that involve permanent or temporary changes in some people's perceptions, beliefs or notion of reality come with other symptoms. Schizophrenia, e.g. as far as i know can also come with executive function deficits and I am assuming that these are not just due to the social isolation caused by different perceptions or beliefs about reality.

08-14-15, 04:52 AM
Life and reality is subjective.

08-14-15, 11:40 AM
Psychoses, "delusions", paranoia; they tend to be an evolving process. They can often also have a fluctuating effect on our lives.

I can feel like the government is self-serving, corrupt and sometimes downright viscious, but most of the time that doesn't interfere with my daily life. When my mental health suffers; when I'm stressed, depressed, etc., such thoughts can become more of a dominant feature of my reality.

In my conversations with people who live with schizophrenia, the experiences, while they can be incredibly disturbing and stressful, are often not what creates the biggest problems in their life. It's the solitude, the marginalization, and the judgment that they experience because their experience is something to which most people have trouble relating.

It's interesting that you mention schizophrenia having relation to executive function... Often there are cognitive deficeits that come with schizophrenia, and there's a growing body of evidence that it's those deficeits that lead to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia (positive as in outward, not good)

There's also some new genetic research suggesting a relationship between ADHD and schizophrenia, and that they may in fact be two extremes on a continuum.

I'm pretty much convinced that what we call schizophrenia will end up being a dozen or so entirely different things. They suggest that 10% of cases might be the result of an autoimmune disorder, another 5-10% may be the result of gluten intollerance...

Getting back on topic, when it comes to the standard story of reality, I doubt there is as much of a "universal overlap" as people assume there is; that we may share a significant amount of reality with the majority of people, but the overlap will be different with everyone, and that there will be relatively few points which are universally accepted by the group. Which means that, especially in a group setting, we sometimes remain silent about our opinions because we sense that the consensus disagrees with our perspective.

As our reality drifts, or something not accepted by the concensus is of particular importance to our lives at that point, remaining silent leads to feeling more isolated, more disconnected from our peers.