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wundayatta's avatar

How much does the other person's reported reality matter to you?

Asked by wundayatta (58357 points ) December 24th, 2009

Often I make up a story in my mind to explain another person’s behavior. When my therapists to this, they say “it is my fantasy that you…”

The question is how much (if any) feedback from the person you are trying to explain matters. Does their completely trump your fantasy? Does your fantasy completely trump their explanation? Do the two modify each other?

I’ve been trying to understand the behavior of someone who recently hurt me very much. I’ve come up with a story to explain it, and this story allows me to forgive them, which helps me feel not so bad about it.

I find I have the urge to check this story out with that person, to see if it might be true. In other words, I want them to validate my story. But does it matter if I get validation? Do I even want validation? What if they don’t validate it? Isn’t my story the only one that matters because it helps me get on with my life?

I am reminded of people who were abused as children. It seems like they often have an urge to confront their abusers and get an acknowledgment that the person understands what they did. But does it matter? Does the other person’s reality matter? Or is it only what’s in your head that matters, because that’s what heals you?

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35 Answers

Silhouette's avatar

I can only speak for myself and only from my experience with this. Looking for validation from your abuser is an exercise in futility. If you need validation seek it some place safe.

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stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

It’s ultimately your choice whether to accept fantasy of reality. But the more you opt for fantasy over reality, the more detached your life becomes from the real world. You risk becoming nonfunctional in the real world if you accept too much fantasy.

JLeslie's avatar

I kind of do this. Have a story in my head to try to forgive the other person, but also want to talk it out and get validated. Not only have my story validated, but also get my feelings validated.

I don;t know your specific situation, but I have found that some people will partcipate in this type of communication and healing and some won’t. When you have someone who wants to make thngs better, who is willing to communicate it can be a wonderful process to clear the air and make things better.

The ones who don’t want to talk these things through can be really awful. Generally, I think they cannot admit when they have done something wrong or that it might have been hurtful. They will twist things around if you try to force them to talk about it, and if you take any ownership in the situation, by maybe apologyzing first or trying to be understanding of them, they will use it against you. Now you have admitted you are wrong and justified their actions in their mind.

My advice is if you attempt to talk things out and the person is resistant or annoyed, just let it go if possible. Hopefully, it is not someone very close to you.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

To the first order, it matters to the extent to which ones own reflection in their reality (i.e. how they think and feel about you) matters or not.

StupidGirl's avatar

Their [reported] reality matters a lot to me. Too bad nobody is as stupid as I am. )-:

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@StupidGirl I’ve read enough of your postings to know that you are far from stupid. :^)

CMaz's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land – That is so right on. I need to re-peat it.

“It’s ultimately your choice whether to accept fantasy of reality. But the more you opt for fantasy over reality, the more detached your life becomes from the real world.”

I have so been there done that.

wundayatta's avatar

@StupidGirl I think I like the way you think. A stupidgirl who is not stupid—the same kind of presentation as a loony guy who is not crazy.

@ChazMaz, @stranger_in_a_strange_land and @stranger_in_a_strange_land How do you know that the reality check person’s version isn’t more of a fantasy than yours?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@daloon A real tail-chasing enigma. You can wind up like the Cheshire Cat, nothing left but a smile.

CMaz's avatar

That is the hard part. :-)

Listen to the people that are outside the box. Because your view is/can be your enemy. Or, eventually time will tell you.

Hopefully it will not take too long as to destroy a great deal of life in the process.

For me, I have learned that leaning on family has and could have saved me so much time and money.

JLeslie's avatar

I really like what @StupidGirl said also. I think that is true for me also. I tend to be a need to know type of person.

wundayatta's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Exactly. That’s why you have to stop somewhere. Why not with your own view, since that is usually more helpful (although, when I’m depressed, it is not helpful at all).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@daloon I just accept my own view, depression, cynicism and all. I function well enough in the world to get by, all that matters ultimately.

prude's avatar

I believe that those I care about most are what matters to me, not necessarily someone I haven’t ever met or someone I see on a daily basis but don’t know, but like my close friends and family, all the others can go do whatever it is they do to justify or rationalize whatever it is they need to do.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Sometimes it is best not to interact any longer with certain persons.
Forgiveness is best policy, as it heals you, too.
The best way to forgive abusers in your life is to understand that you love who you are, and everyone in your life (even the bad people) helped you be…you. And so you thank them (in your mind and heart, not necessarily in person) for the fire which helped purify your steel… but you cease to play with them anymore.

wundayatta's avatar

@Kelly_Obrien That is really good advice. Maybe I’ll get there. It’s too raw for my heart to achieve, yet. I was thinking about what this taught me. I feel like I keep on hurting people because I want to love them. Sucks.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Interesting that you put it that way, “I feel like I keep on hurting people because I want to love them.”
I have a theory that most of us have been hurt sometime in our lives. Hurt bad enough, emotionally, that we twist things slightly (here I’ve created the idea that we all have emotion filters). When we are healthy and functioning fine, love from others comes into us exactly as that…love. And when we feel love for others, we express it lovingly.
But when your emotion filter is broken, love from others gets twisted inside us until it feel hurtful. And when we wish to express love to others, it also is twisted on the way out….and wiinds up being an expression of…negativity.

So, many people being hurtful to others, as your friend(s) were to you, is often an attempt on their part to be loving with you but gone horribly awry as their expression of love is twisted into something ugly by their broken “filter.”

SirGoofy's avatar

I’m more interested in someone’s unreported realities. Probably alot more fun!

Ghost_in_the_system's avatar

It only matters enough for me to recognize it. I have no desire to upset someone’s “reality”, but I have even less desire to have their reality dictate mine.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Urgh. I was recently asked this in relation to finding closure with a previous partner and I decided to go with what was presented rather than push for the actual reality which I’m not in denial of but also not anxious to have more details about (already too many). Whatever helps me let go feeling the old tie so I can keep focused on, keep enjoying and keep growing the present reality, that’s what I want.

Jewel's avatar

I care, but I don’t put much importance on their version of reality. I want to know where they are coming from. I want to see my P.O.V. from other view points. I trust my own reasoning ability, but I am aware that reality is a very personal thing and differs with each of us.
Should you ask for the other persons view of reality? That is up to you, but ask yourself; Do I stand to gain as much as I will be risking?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It does matter because I know that I’m making it up – of course they can be making it up, as well but at least having heard them talk about it, I can figure out how I will relate to them based on the choices they have made with what story to tell me – sometimes a person tells me things to explain themselves and I know it’s BS, it’s cliche, it’s a defense mechanism and they know it themselves…but because they acted cowardly and didn’t tell me the truth, I can now cut them out of my life and have a better reason for it than my own explanation of things – people always have choices…

SABOTEUR's avatar

Wow…(sweating)...you have a lot of details there so it’s hard to really pinpoint what issue you’re addressing. I’ll just share my own experience of perception vs reality; maybe something I say will be applicable.

After my first wife left me, I became real adept at relating, to anyone who wanted to hear, the minute details of everything that happened.I must have told that story a zillion times…until I got bored with it. I think I got bored with it because one day it occurred to me that by reliving the occurance in my mind and encouraging myself to repeatedly talk about ii, I was constantly bringing the past into the present. She hurt me once, but I was voluntarily inflicting pain upon myself by reliving the incident. As it became clear I was hurting myself more than she ever did, I let it go.

Don’t know how much of this relates to your question or your experience…it seemed appropriate. My apology if I missed the mark.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ultimately, whatever keeps you sane is what you should worry about. From my observations, you need to feel safe. If fantasy does that for you, so be it.

Personally, I prefer the truth even if it hurts.

nebule's avatar

It matters a lot… but you know I learnt this week that actually confronting it… albeit in a letter did validate my own feelings… even before I’d presented the person with the letter.

The letter didn’t change anything my feelings are still the same…but I wasn’t told that I was wrong I was told that I was actually right…that the way I feel does matter and i deserved to be treated better and I got an apology.

It could have been different…it could have ended in an argument…but I addressed the issue with humility and sincerity and truth and I believe that that made a difference to the outcome… If you seek truth the world will open up to you.

You will get the validation, even if that is only through yourself… feeling the feelings and acknowledging them and opening them up to people is often the very validation that we need… regardless of what comes back to us.

phillis's avatar

What a great question, Daloon! I’ve thought about this so much over the years!

Seeing (or even mentioning) the good in somebody else does nothing to “trump” me. I have never once been bitten in the ass by being genuine, or conceding a point to someone else, nor must I give myself away in order to do it. I can be happy for their experiences, or happy for them that they have a good point which may or may not overshadow mine.

The only thing that trumps me is me. Particularly bad decisions or especially good performances can do this. I can trip myself up according to my perceptions of people, situations, and life. My bad attitude is what screws me, not other people.

In other words, another person’s life and behavior has little to do with me and I and what I am responsible for.

I have learned that everything doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. I’ve worked really hard to look for ways to create a win/win situation for those involved with so many circumstances. It quickly becomes a way of life that makes experiences richer, which had an unexpected cumulative effect, as time went on.

It doesn’t have to be that just one person wins. Why can’t everyone win? Why can’t everyone be right, or if not right, at least a good point worthy of acknowledging? Obviously, I’m not talking about blatant right or wrong issues so I hope no one takes that course of extremes with what I am saying. I’m talking about all the shades of gray in between black and white issues.

There are people with whom I have zip in common. But I can appreciate their attention to detail, their determination, their preferences, their talents. I don’t have to agree with me, or be anything like me, in order to find positive things about them to focus on.

As for confronting abusers, that can be tricky! Many times, people seem to overlook the fact that, most often, they are coming to thier abuser with a child-like mentality. They’re looking for validation, and in some cases, the acceptance they never got. This sets the abused person up for failure. Common sense dictates that an abuser will have to admit to abuse before any of those things can happen, which is unlikely. An abuser doesn’t even have to be in the same hemisphere in order for those things to be given to an abuse victim.

YARNLADY's avatar

It never even occured to me to think about such a thing. I pretty much accept others, and experiences at face value. I don’t think I have ever tried to explain someone else to myself, unless they asked me to.

I have tried to figure out the best way to approach certain people for the best possible outcome for both (I have an issue with my newest Daughter in Law), but nothing like what you have posited.

Polly_Math's avatar

A great deal if you want to communicate with them effectively. And the same for them..

Shuttle128's avatar

I find it surprisingly important for me to discover the underlying reality of a situation or action by understanding multiple subjective realities. I also find it important to show others the underlying reality made up by inter-subjective evidence. This gets me in a lot of trouble sometimes.

My girlfriend wants to be happy and there are times that the underlying inter-subjective reality (the reality that neither of us may have initially reported) can upset her. Sometimes, though the reality that she has does not ‘mesh’ with the inter-subjective reality it does not always harm anybody, I still insist that she see the ‘truth’ and I know that’s not fair.

I would guess that to me it is important….though making our realities mesh is something that I see as even more important. I know that this isn’t fair and is probably impossible in many situations, but for some reason I have a strong urge to have an agreed upon reality between myself and most of my friends and family.

Darwin's avatar

My son’s take on reality matters a lot to me, because that is how I know if he has started hallucinating again. However, in terms of his behavior towards me, I only need to know enough of his reality to be able to guide him into better behavior. Its his illness, not him, breaking my stuff and calling me names.

With other folks, if they have hurt me deeply, I tend to write them out of my life. What they think no longer matters to me in the slightest. My reality is what keeps me going.

wundayatta's avatar

I wish I could write them out of my life. I find myself hanging around forever, trying to figure out why they turned on me like that. I guess it’s because I hurt so much and only some kind of admittance of a mistake makes me feel any better. But then I spend so much energy trying to get them to admit something, and I get nothing in return, I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess. Or maybe just hopeful that one day, I’ll get what I’m looking for. I prefer to think of it as the latter, since the former is a sad way to live. I believe I am looking for a better way, and so I have to analyze my failures, or I will make the same mistakes over and over. Plus, I always want to fix even the most unfixable of things.

Darwin's avatar

Who are these people to you? Why can’t you write them out of your life, or at least out of your emotional life?

I vanished my in-laws in California from my emotions once I discovered that they do not consider our children to be “real grandchildren” because they are adopted. Maintaining close contact with them is not worth the price my kids would pay. My husband agrees.

wundayatta's avatar

Usually they are people I love.

Darwin's avatar

Sorry about that. Unless it is my SO, I do kick folks out of my emotional life if they abuse it.

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