Dealing With Doubt When Changing Beliefs
by Cynthia Sue Larson
June 19, 2000

Reality Shifts

My initial reaction when I noticed reality shifting around me was astonishment and confusion that something could have just mysteriously appeared, disappeared, transformed or transported... or that there could have been a change in the way I experienced time. At first, I simply desired to "get back to my normal life" when these things happened. I'd be curious about the reality shift for a short while, but I didn't want to incorporate the implications of reality shifts into my beliefs and assumptions unless I had to. It took some pretty big reality shifts and lots of them to get me to realize that this phenomena was not going to go away.

On every occasion when I first wrote about reality shifts, I faced tremendous self-doubts. I'd wonder, "How could these changes have actually happened?!", and "Have I just been imagining that reality shifts?!" I kept finding myself back in my previous beliefs that the material world can only be affected by direct physical interaction at close range. According to this world-view, reality can not shift "by itself". Fortunately, every time I faced each of these bouts with doubts, I would almost always experience a huge and irrefutable "in-your-face" kind of reality shift! I felt extremely grateful every time this happened, because these bold shifts in reality renewed my sense of confidence that my old world-view needed some adjustment and that reality really does shift.

One of the most noteworthy such shifts occurred on a day when I'd been listening to my inner critic and skeptic demanding proof and evidence as I attempted to write an article about reality shifts for a print magazine. I decided to go for a walk to clear my head, since it was becoming a struggle to think clearly, let alone write anything intelligible. I walked to the park near my house, and noticed that some gardeners had recently finished cutting the grass by the park entrance. I'd seen them weed-whacking the grass the day before, and had stayed out of the park while they worked. Now I was eager to enter the park on my favorite trail, and as I started to do so, I was stunned to see a large wooden sign with a map chained to a trash can alongside a dog bag dispenser post right in front of me -- blocking my usual short-cut into the park! All these things looked like they'd been there for months or years, and they even had grass stains on them as if they were there just the day before when the weed-whacking was happening... yet I knew I'd never seen any of them before. I was absolutely certain of this, because I'd always walked right through the space they now occupied! I also clearly recalled seeing a plain grass field just the day before when the gardeners were cutting the grass!

I was so amazed by the appearance of the weather-worn post, garbage can and sign that I came closer to them and tipped the garbage can slightly over on its side to see what was underneath. I found a circle of bare earth with a few sunshine-starved sprouts underneath. Even this detail of a "no roots, no grass" zone under the trash can was complete -- the entire ensemble looked convincingly like it had been in place here for a long, long time. I waited by the sign to interrogate the first passer-by. I wanted to know if anyone else recalled that this sign had not been here just yesterday.

When a woman jogged toward me a few minutes later, I asked her "How long has this sign been here?" She stopped and gave the matter some thought before replying "It looks like it's been here a long time." I nodded, and agreed, but asked again "How long do you remember it being here?" She couldn't seem to come up with an answer at first, but after several moments she slowly replied, "I don't know... about three months or so. It was here when I moved here about three months ago." I was satisfied that she had a completely different recollection of the sign than I had, yet I was absolutely sure that this sign had definitely not been in the park for the previous three months! I knew I'd walked right through where it was now standing just a couple of days ago.

Each time I've doubted that reality shifts, I haven't lost all the progress I've made in changing my beliefs -- instead, each time of doubt has provided me another opportunity to review and re-establish for myself that reality is not always what it seems. I've gone through some pretty large feelings of incredulity, and every time that I've questioned whether my previous reality shift experiences had really happened, a new one arrives just as surely as if I'd whistled for a faithful dog. My questioning helps me regain a sense of perspective closer to the way most people currently view reality, so I get a big jolt when I encounter my next reality shift. When I'm believing that reality shifts, the shifts don't jolt me so much, but instead feel like part of what Abraham Maslow describes as a "plateau experience". Maslow compared peak experiences to plateau experiences in his book RELIGIONS, VALUES, AND PEAK EXPERIENCES (1970) by pointing out "There is more an element of surprise, and of disbelief, and of esthetic shock in the peak-experience, more the quality of having such an experience for the first time." In contrast, "The less intense plateau experience is more often experienced as pure enjoyment and happiness..."

My forays into enlightenment are brief, and doubt is a part of returning me to the place where I can be jolted again the next time reality shifts. When I step back and look at the whole belief-changing process, I can relax and learn to enjoy it just a little bit more.

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