The “free choice versus determinism” controversy perplexes me. Do we choose the course of our actions? Does what appears to be our internal decision-making process control our future? Or are we only carrying out a screenplay that has been created by a higher power while pretending that we are in control of everything? People usually imply something more spiritual, even mystical, when they say, “You construct your own world,” as opposed to the debate over free choice vs. determinism. The difference between whether or not we create reality and whether or not we have free will, I’d contend, is only one of degree; they are, in essence, the same question. I’ll get to disputing that shortly.
Let’s begin by addressing the fundamental query, “Is there free will?” Without a doubt, the answer is yes. Both free will and determinism entail belief in free will; the only question is whose free will? The will is yours if you “believe in free will,” according to what you know to be true. The will is someone else’s if you “believe in determinism,” such as God, fate, the universe, destiny, the stars, nature, etc. It makes sense that we think such a dichotomy may exist given how we normally view ourselves. Either I make the decision or someone else does. That is how it seems, feels, and how we perceive what is happening.
The truth of what’s happening is more intricate and complex. Buddhists do not use metaphors when they assert that there is no self. Every DNA strand in your body has a lineage that extends back so far as to form an interwoven web that connects your genetic heritage to the entirety of human history. The Darwinian theory of evolution, which considered individual changes over a lifetime to be unrelated to genetics, has been partially refuted, as we now know thanks to recent advancements in epigenetics. Traumatic experiences that we undergo over our lifetimes can be genetically inherited as well as handed down.
The experiences of our ancestors continue to shape not only our bodies but also our cultures. Our entire way of seeing has been shaped by the values, presumptions, beliefs, experiences, and predispositions of the environments in which we were raised. We are profoundly shaped by the food we ate as children, the language we learned, the nation we were born in, the values of love and discipline in our families, the resources we had access to, and how our society saw our race, gender, class, body, and affect. These are all external things that we had no control over.
Then there are the more intimate encounters. First, there are the early childhood experiences that we carry with us throughout our lives. What happened to us when we were children? We had no say in the matter. Whether these experiences were positive or negative, they have a profound impact on us in ways we are often unaware of. Were we adored or abused, fed or neglected, isolated or socialised? Were those around us traumatised, and how did this affect their treatment of us? How did those experiences influence how we interpreted subsequent events? How did that develop into patterns of behaviour, and how did those patterns become the identities we have today?
What about right now? Is the weather cold? Do you feel hungry, tired, or bored? Are you worried about your rent, your job, or your relationships? What are the effects of each of these factors on what you are thinking right now, what you want right now, and who you are right now? The infinite threads that comprise existence all weave together to form the tapestry that is each of us, right now. Our biology encompasses the entire evolutionary history of the human species, as well as every species from which we evolved or interacted along the way. Our emotions contain the entirety of our behavioural conditioning, trauma, and recovery. From the Big Bang to what we ate for dinner last night, our bodies are earth and water, fire and air, blood and guts, electricity and vibration.
Each of us is a direct result of everything that has ever occurred, to everything, and everywhere (all at once). Even the idea of ourselves as a “product” is illusory, because we are not finished. We, too, are ongoing processes. We are constantly in dialogue with everything outside of our bodies in order to become who we are. We are the evolution of life. So, who has free will? It’s all yours. It belongs to the entire universe. You literally are the entire universe. Everything you desire and will desire is a direct result of everything that has ever occurred. Every result is still in the works. There is the concept of free will. It is a basic condition of existence: existence is dynamic, in motion, and making decisions. The following sentence is not, “And so are you.” The following sentence reads: Our free will is the free will of existence, and existence’s free will is ours.
Do you construct your own reality?
Yes, indeed. But you’re not really who you think you are.
When someone says, “You create your own reality,” they usually mean that they have had an experience in which they saw their own hand in interpreting and influencing their life events. They’ve realised they can alter their interpretations of what happens to them, which alters their responses, which shifts all other responses and changes their experience. This person has most likely discovered areas of their life where they were previously interpreting and responding to things in ways that made them feel worse. They have since begun to practise changing their interpretations. As a result, they are feeling better, responding in ways that make them feel better, and receiving responses that make them feel better.
Let’s say their boss frequently yells at them. Previously, they felt disrespected, angry, and ashamed. Throughout the day, they would ruminate on it, react to it, and project that same disrespect onto others. Then they discovered that they could alter their interpretation. They stopped internalising their boss’s behaviour as a reflection of them and began viewing it purely as a neurosis on their boss’s part, something that doesn’t need to affect their own feelings or actions. As a result, they are more content at work, happier at home, treat others better, receive better reactions from others, and feel better overall. Whose will is it that this person finds peace where anger once reigned?
However, the buck almost certainly stops somewhere. Unless this reality creator has attained total Enlightenment, they are not always in control. There are almost certainly other areas of this person’s life where they have not yet discovered the ability to change their interpretations. These are most likely the result of trauma-related beliefs and reactions, particularly early childhood trauma. They may be able to alter their interpretations of their boss’s rage and disapproval, but not those of their partner or, more importantly, their father. Other experiences that carry more emotional weight or trigger deeper, more visceral pain shatter the peace they can muster at work.
So, who is creating their reality? A conditioned fixation on guilt and individualism is at the root of much of the opposition to the idea of creating our own realities. Because we were raised in a society obsessed with guilt and punishment, we have a tendency to see responsibility as a synonym for fault and creation as a synonym for responsibility. “I create my own reality,” we believe, means “I am responsible for what happens to me.” We are not to blame for believing this; it was conditioned in us by forces over which we had no control. We hear stories from people who believe they or others have unconsciously manifested illnesses in their bodies as a result of unresolved emotional pain. With my own chronic illnesses, I believe I’ve accomplished this. “My persistent patterns of reaction to trauma gave rise to my chronic Lyme disease,” I say. “I created this reality,” does not imply, “It’s my fault I have Lyme disease.” It isn’t my fault. I would never have chosen this for myself if I had known what I was getting myself into. There is no one to blame. Nobody is to blame. It is not a punishment to have this disease, and no one is being punished for wrongdoing.
We hear such strong opposition to such beliefs because they are frequently interpreted as statements of culpability rather than simply correlation and causation. “But what about children who get cancer? “Do you honestly believe that innocent child brought cancer on herself?” Obviously not. She is not to blame. It was never her fault. It is also possible that patterns of trauma passed down in her literal DNA, along with the rest of her biology, gave rise to cancer in her body when combined with other experiences in her life and environmental factors. In terms of the tiny tip of the iceberg we call “our own will,” reality is shaped by us rather than created by us. Most of our desires, impulses, beliefs, and longings are unconscious and ingrained. Our needs arise from physical states that are influenced by our surroundings for example, when it is too cold, we require warmth. We need connection when things are too distant. Our environment and upbringing shape the pathways and tools we believe we have at our disposal to meet our needs. All of these are decisions we make, usually unconsciously.
What we perceive as “our will” is a minuscule fraction of the whole. The unconscious drives, conditioned patterns, biological needs, cultural meanings, judgements, patterns, thinking, language, the constraints we place around how our needs can be met, and the way we interpret what our needs are these aren’t really experienced as “ours,” but they create our reality. The rest of our will is still ours the tip of the iceberg that lies beneath the surface of conscious experience. Just as we do, it comes from everywhere and everything beyond us. It is our intention. It also belongs to the entire universe. They are inseparable. Do you, then, create your own reality? Of course: the entire universe creates reality, and you are that reality. It is a matter of awareness and perspective whether you experience that creation as conscious.
Hi, I’m Garima and I write about life experiences. I have several books available on Amazon. Check them out today! Any purchases or KDP reads will be greatly appreciated. If you like my books, do leave a review. Here’s my author page on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0BQDZXYNV
9 Comments Add yours
The choice is to say “yes” or “no” to life as it is in the present.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Is “true” another expression of “yes”?
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person
Have been grappling with this concept too.
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person