How could it possibly be that true perceptions could guide useful behavior? And fortunately we have a nice metaphor with the advent of computers and laptops and user interfaces that I think can help us to see what’s going on here.
The whole point of the desktop interface is to hide the truth and to guide your behavior.
So what you want is an interface that hides the complexity that you don’t need to know so that you can do the things you need to do… It’s not lying to you; it’s actually helping you. But it’s helping you by hiding the truth.
So evolution has done the same thing for us. It has given us perceptions that are like a user interface…
So I’ve used Evolutionary Game Theory to conclude that everything that we see around us in our perceptions is not vertical; it’s just a user interface, okay. and that means I have to go back and rethink what do
Consciousness didn’t emerge from a prior physical process of evolution. Consciousness is fundamental and so we have to rethink the whole history of the universe actually from this point of view, from The Big Bang up through evolution. We have to rethink it in terms of how to rewrite that story, consistent with all of our current science but understanding that it’s … consciousness is fundamental, not the physical universe (7:23)
And, you know, one thing that comes out of this as well is, no one has been able to give a reason for why consciousness would evolve. What is it for? And so my attitude is, it didn’t evolve. It’s the ground from which evolution occurs.
When I find articles like this, I get this immense feeling of elation because it verifies what my intuition has been trying to tell me over the past decade or more. That being that the evolution and transformation of our perception through vertical development isn’t just like a computer getting a new operating system / user interface but it’s more like a video game whereby when you level up your level of consciousness, your perceptual user interface improves in turn. And just as quoted above, this newer perceptual user interface empowers you and gives you the capacity to work with and understand complexity at a greater level.
This is the meaning behind my description of myself as “playing at a whole new level” right now in my life. In effect, when you level up your level of consciousness to a new stage of psychological development, you’re effecting playing within a whole new game and perceiving reality in a whole new way.
So no, consciousness doesn’t evolve, as noted above, but rather consciousness is what allows us to evolve in turn, gaining a greater understanding and clarity of it as we level up in life.
My quote above was written from the perspective of how to overcome the current issues within an MMO game I had previously been playing, as the developers of the game weren’t meeting the needs of the players within it.
What’s remarkable about these words though is that they also perfectly describe what happens when we undergo vertical development in life. The game you’re playing is your current mindset and worldview. The new “game” that you create within the old game is a new mindset and worldview, one that broadens your perception and space of possibilities.
And in a similar fashion, the reason for the leap between the two is often necessitated by your current needs not being met by the existing game due to the way it was created.
It’s funny. My last post has made me realize that I’m effectively being a gamemaster and world builder in trying to encapsulate my work within a narrative package that someone can understand and make sense of in turn. But the essential trick to it is laying a solid, believable foundation that I can then build off of and scaffold other aspects of this bigger picture upon it.
In a nutshell, this bigger picture is about “how play creatively leads us to our authentic selves” which embodies my Be Real Creative mantra and how I see The Future of Work as “being nobody-but-yourself.”
But to understand what this actually means on a visionary scale, you have to understand the practical psychological aspects of how we don’t see reality directly but instead are perceiving it as a constructed mental map that helps us navigate our lives. This is the essential foundation I’m talking about. If you can’t make sense of it then everything else that is scaffolded on top of it won’t make sense either. So you have to start with the foundation and work your way upwards.
In a sense, a lot of this is like wayfinding. But instead of exploring and navigating the world around us, we’re exploring a whole new world within us which in turn transforms the way we perceive our world around us.
Just stumbled across an article talking about how the end poem within the game Minecraft has been released into the public domain. I’ve never played Minecraft, so I wasn’t familiar with it. Reading the last few words of the poem though, as mentioned in the article, took me aback.
And the game was over and the player woke up from the dream. And the player began a new dream. And the player dreamed again, dreamed better. And the player was the universe. And the player was love.
You are the player.
Minecraft End Poem/Credits
Deciding to read the poem in its entirety, I was even more blown away by what I read and what Julian Gough wrote as the poem’s creator.
The core of what this poem is trying to articulate, and even the metaphor it’s using of the “player,” mirrors the same metaphor I want to use myself to explain everything I’ve learnt and still am learning about vertical development, how it relates to psychology and even potentially quantum mechanics, and how using a gaming metaphor can help us understand it in a simpler way (even though the actual workings of it are still a mystery).
The best way I could articulate this in my own words would be to say that we are living in a “simulation” but it is one of our own creation. But I emphasize the word “our” because it’s the first thing to understand about who we are as “players.”
When we make this radical shift in understanding the larger context of our reality and apply a gaming metaphor to it, suddenly we see how the soul that I am is effectively a “player” inhabiting a body as a “character” which we are playing within a simulated “game” (see the featured image at the top of this post to grasp the awareness of this).
BTW for those familiar with Plato’s Cave, this perfectly relates to it as well. Think of your “character” as your ego, a constructed sense of identity.
Now here’s where it really gets interesting. Once we lay this base foundation, we can then begin to work off of it and understand how others things in life relate to it and fit within this larger context. For example, vertical development helps us to understand how to “level up” within this “game” which improves our perceptual “interface” for it, thus empowering us to perceive it in whole new ways.
Note how this ties into the mention of the “interface” within the Minecraft poem, as well as the mention of getting to “highest level,” as well as mentioning how this is achieved within “the long dream of life” and not “the short dream of a game.” In effect, if we look at Life as a larger, role playing, infinite game, each level of consciousness within it effectively feels like it’s own “short game,” with the player’s character having different roles, needs, and values at each level.
Now once we understand this, we can also build off this in turn and understand how our immediate needs today fit into this larger context. For example, the research I’ve been doing the last two decades around The Future of Work, social innovation, and creativity, as well as the people I’ve connected with online who are working within these areas, all relate to how we are effectively striving to level up to our next level, both as individuals and collectively as a society.
All said and done, this is a glimpse of what I’ve been struggling to articulate. But as I’ve realized recently, the struggle isn’t as much in articulating it, as in having the courage to articulate something so seemingly crazy to the average person that it almost seems heretical. But then again, hasn’t society undergone a monumental, radical shift of perception like this in the past, at a time when we once believed the Earth was the centre of the universe but only to discover that it revolved around the sun instead.
Update: I’ve been reflecting on this and I think going forward I’m going to focus more on the psychology of this rather than the quantum mechanics aspect of it. The main reason is that the quantum mechanics side is pretty much bleeding edge and still a work in process. The psychology side has been more researched over the past decade, with a lot of neuroscientists (such as Beau Lotto) substantiating that we don’t see reality directly.
My greatest fear in stepping forward into my life’s work, and truly owning it and accepting it, is not knowing everything and thus being unable to provide “all the answers” that people may need relating to my work.
To put this another way, my very mindset and perception of what I need to be “successful” is a wrong perception of reality that’s actually impeding me from my own growth and causing me to suffer in my life, because I feel like I’m stuck in place.
Therefore to step forward and out of the way of myself (my ego), what I need to do is not avoid this but actually embrace it and leverage it as something that can help me going forward in my work. Why this is hilarious is because it actually describes the traits of leaders at the highest plateau of adult development, as pictured below, whereby leaders with Self-Transforming Minds are “leading to learn.”
In effect, leaders with Self-Transforming Minds don’t have all the right answers. They are instead the ones asking all the right questions.
This is pretty much why I’ve been unable to step into this plateau and realm of perceiving because my outdated mindset and perception is preventing me from understanding how it works differently as a whole, even though I’ve mapped and seemingly understood pieces of this terrain over the last decade or so.
Simply put, for me to truly step into this space, I actually need to live and embody the values of it in my very work. In doing so, only then will I be able to step beyond all of my “monstrous” fears and effectively “slay” them (as per Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey). Effectively as a whole, this means meeting my base needs of 1) economically surviving by doing my own unique work, 2) truly accepting the belonging of my core Self (as per Brene Brown’s True Belonging), and 3) finally satisfying my need for respect and recognition by truly doing something of deep value to others.
While I’ve been aware of these base needs for a while, I just couldn’t figure out the correct context and intention for my work to try to “package” it as a whole…because I’ve been trying to contain it within an outdated approach which never seems to eloquently fit these newer concepts, ideas, and methods. This newer, broader perspective may finally provide me with a larger space of possibilities to contain everything I’ve wanted, in a way that may finally make sense on so many levels.
I just realized something today that relates to what Carol Sanford said about trying to share the understanding of her work to other people in her book Indirect Work.
The number one thing impeding people from their own growth and development is their assumption that they know everything already (which is why they often listen to just affirm their own beliefs).
This in turn relates to a question I had a very long time ago about trying to help people in corporate environments but without much success. “How can you help someone who doesn’t want your help?”
The reason you can’t help them and they don’t want your help is because they think they know everything and have it all figured out already. In other words, they don’t realize that their own belief that they have everything figured out is in itself a misperception that is causing them suffering.
It’s only when someone goes through that repeated suffering and finally realizes they haven’t got everything figured out and actually asks for help…or at the very least steps back from their beliefs and begin to question them…that they can begin to grow and develop again.
That said though, I think our world is going to go through a whole lot more suffering before people begin to wake up and realize that they’re belief that they have everything figured out is the main reason why their world(view) is collapsing in the first place.
Science shows that people’s well-being consistently depends upon the degree to which they felt respected by others. That’s status, and it’s more important to people’s happiness than family or money.
Life is a game. There’s no way to understand the human world without first understanding this. Everyone alive is playing a game whose hidden rules are built into us and that silently directs our thoughts, beliefs and actions. This game is inside us. It is us. We can’t help but play.
We play for status, if only subtly, with every social interaction, every contribution we make to work, love or family life and every internet post. We play with how we dress, how we speak and what we believe. Life is not a journey towards a perfect destination. It’s a game that never ends. And it’s the very worst of us.
This fits quite closely in with my last post about finding deeper meaning in life beyond our base needs, with “status” (aka recognition, self-esteem) being our highest base need that we value (as shown in Level 3 of the chart below) but with which it can have limiting values associated with it (i.e. arrogance, pride, superiority) that can bring out the “worst of us” as well.
But we need to realize that what’s gotten us here, may not get us to where we want to be in the future. That’s because each “level” of the game is like a whole new game in a whole new reality, kind of like a psychological multiverse.
So gaining “status” will only get you so far. You’ve got to go much further if you really want to understand the deeper game and the deeper treasure at the core of it.
It’s not about “winning” or “losing.” It’s about going beyond zero-sum games and seeing the bigger picture, the bigger arc to life, within the infinite game.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been increasingly feeling detached from certain things to the point that they feel meaningless or irrelevant to my life, whereas before they may have provided a lot of joy to it. At first I was concerned why I was feeling this way but recently I’ve come to the realization that this is a natural part of the process of my ongoing transformation and transition to a larger sense of Self.
The best way I can describe this is something Beau Lotto said within his book Deviate.
…if you want to go from A to B, then you must actively engage with the world. But the first step to get to B is to go from A to not-A. To be in not-A is to be in uncertainty, to experience the stimulus without the requisite meaning of the past. The key is to choose to look away from the meanings we have been layering onto stimuli. Stop your reflexive response with awareness… as one can do when one is able to see the cause of a reflex.
Basically this detachment I’m feeling is the process of me going from “A to not A.” It’s me stepping away from things in my life because they aren’t provide any substantial meaning to it like they used to (kind of like how people are stepping away from the old concept of “work” today, as it’s not providing the meaning it used to provide). But what’s strange is that instead of “looking way from the meanings,” I’m actually 1) seeing them for what they are, 2) seeing how they helped me in the past, but 3) realizing that they are no longer enough for me to move forward on my journey.
Two examples of this are movies and video games.
I used to love watching movies voraciously. Today though, I’m finding the more I look for something to watch, the more I’m seeing patterns that are old and outdated, rather than new and wondrous. Lately, it’s almost as though there is this resurgence of shoot ’em up type movies, where the lone good hero goes about killing all of the bad guys.
I also used to love playing video games. In fact, video games and their communities were integral to my development and growth as a young adult, helping me to step out of my introverted shell and really take a leadership role with things I cared about. Today though, I’m finding video game environments almost like microcosms of what’s happen in the world today. It’s like there is the same attitude in these video game communities as in these movies, everyone thinks they’re righteously the “good guys” and everyone else is the bad guys that need to be removed or controlled to make “everything better.”
As I noted above, what’s happening with movies and video games is that I’m seeing the underlying meaning of why they are so popular with people but also why they are meaningless to me now because I want to go beyond these meanings and find something deeper. To visualize what I’m talking about here, Richard Barrett has a great chart showing the various levels of consciousness and the values associated with them.
If you look at the base three levels of consciousness (1 Survival, 2 Relationships, 3 Self-Esteem), you’re looking at what Robert Kegan describes as the Socialized Mind which encompasses our basic psychological needs and core “positive” values for life, like survival, belonging, and recognition. They help us to “fit in” within society, especially when we’re young and growing up.
Note also, however, that accompanying these “positive values” are “limiting values” as well, like control, blame, and superiority. Why these are limiting values is because they can limit our further growth and development to higher levels of consciousness by addictively trapping us at lower levels of consciousness. To put this another way, it creates a situation where you feel like you (as your ego) are standing in your own way.
A way I like looking at these is seeing life as a roleplaying game and these are “monsters” standing in our way. More specifically, they relate to our monstrous fears. And to further “level up” in life and reach more evolved levels of consciousness, we need to overcome and psychologically “slay” these monstrous fears before we can do so.
What I’ve learnt with regards to my own life though is that you will feel like you have slain these monstrous fears and will have levelled up but then later in your life, these fears will revisit you at a much deeper level than you imagined. Thus you realize that the monstrous fears you felt like you had slain were just the minions of a much larger boss monster that is monumentally harder to overcome. So you have to revisit these monstrous fears and overcome them once and for all or say stuck at the level you’re at.
What I see happening with society as a whole right now is that our base psychological fears and limiting values are keeping us within a vicious addictive loop that we can’t get out of. It’s like we’re drowning but we can’t see what we’re drowning within. What’s even worse though is that people have been becoming aware of these psychological fears and addictions and have started using them for their own benefit, such as politically and economically, increasingly over the past decades.
While I won’t go into political examples, because I think they’re pretty evident, I’d like to show one example of how businesses and even an entire industry is using these fears and addictions for economic gain. I’m talking about the video game industry, as shown in this video below which explains how to psychologically manipulate your gaming customers for your financial benefit. Note that this approach is pretty dominant now in the video game industry, particularly within Free-To-Play games, as this video is from 2016.
Remember I said that most people are oblivious to what they’re drowning within? Well that’s what it feels like playing within these video games where these developers are using these techniques to psychologically manipulate their customers as players within it. From my vantage point, I basically can see all of these people around me, particularly males, being manipulated by these very same base limiting values (i.e. control, jealously, revenge, arrogance, pride, superiority) as I mentioned above.
For example, developers of a game will often market new features and items within the game as something that will help you “dominate” your opponents, thus playing into the need to be “superior” and have “control” over others, even if it means having to pay a fortune to do so. So some players in the latest Diablo Immortal mobile free-to-play game were paying over $10,000 to be able to dominate other players.
It’s no different with movies though. These lone good guy hero shoot ’em up movies are feeding off these same fears and limiting values.
Yet this isn’t how you deal with reality in real life. You can’t punch or kill your way out of life’s problems, especially wicked problems like climate change which are systemic in nature and are effectively being created by own ignorant behaviours and beliefs. In effect, as I noted above, we are own own worst enemy standing in our own way.
It’s funny. There’s a common quote that a lot of gamers often use when they treat someone else rudely or discriminatorily within video games. They will often say, “it’s just a game”, as though the focal point of what they’re doing not “being real” means they can treat other people however they want. I’ve said to them though that while the game may not be real, the people playing it are very real though and should be treated with some human decency.
Lately though, I’ve realized that this “it’s just a game” quote has taken on a deeper meaning for me. I’ve realized that life is effectively a very deep psychological game of many “levels” of consciousness and most people are completely oblivious and unaware that they are playing it. In effect, gamers are often psychologically playing “a game within a game” when they interact with other players within video games. It’s just that they’re not aware of it.
That’s why I think I have this detachment with so many things I used to have a strong attachment to, like playing video games. They seem frivolous and meaningless now because I’m seeing the larger roleplaying game called Life at a deeper level now and I want to “play a different game,” even showing others how to play it as well or at least work on learning from each other within it.
Your authentic self is right here in front of you. It is the summation of your life programming from your parents, siblings, peers, teachers, employers, societal norms, and the marketing world. In other words, you are the product of who everyone else has told you to be. All the messages are internalized and become your own inner voice telling you how you should be. The outcome is a lot of noise in your brain of self-judgement and that of others. We call it “self-esteem.” It is a mismatch of your powerful unconscious brain versus your conscious one. It is endless and wears you down.
When I read the above for the first time, I laughed and thought the author must be crazy because that’s not your authentic self. What he’s describing is your programmed self, something that most people are completely unaware of. In effect, just because someone thinks they are an “adult” and are “independent”, it doesn’t mean they are psychologically mature and psychologically independent.
In fact, if you look at Life as a roleplaying game, we are effectively non-player characters during the initial part of our lives growing up (similar to Ryan Reynolds character in the movie Free Guy) because we are so dependent on our societal programming to survive when we are younger.
That’s what the author is trying to get at here though. He’s saying that this initial stage is completely normal and thus our dependency is normal as well. So who we are at this stage is authentically who we should be. It would be like a caterpillar being depressed that it’s not a butterfly yet when becoming a butterfly is a part of its life process. This mirrors with the absurdity of youth today being depressed that they haven’t figured out who they are yet before they have even lived their life and had enough experiences to figure out who they actually are.
What becomes more problematic is that thoughts and ideals are perceived as real to a given person as a car or table.They become our version of reality or life filter. Once this life lens is set, it becomes reinforced over a lifetime—unless you choose to become aware of it and change it.
As we grow into adulthood this programming starts to become rigid and permanent, unless we become aware of it and realize it’s just a construct. Right now, for many people, they are becoming aware of it though because major life challenges often make you question your reality and your programming in turn. This is basically what the pandemic has been doing for a lot of people over the past few years, thus leading to the Great Resignation in the workplace, whereby people are questing for a better way of working.
You are who you are today. You can see yourself by becoming aware of what you react to, what makes you anxious and angry, what are your behaviors and attitudes towards yourself and others, how much personal responsibility you take for your actions, and what level of compassion and empathy you feel for others.
For example, most of us know that compassion is a good idea. But what happens when you are upset? You may say or do things that you are not proud of, and compassion goes right out the window. It is because compassion is a conscious construct and anger arises automatically from your unconscious brain. It is a million-to-one mismatch. That reaction in the moment is who you are because something in the present connected you to something threatening (or perceived as such) in the past. You are there and not here. It is also who you are.
What’s being described above is a person levelling up their level of consciousness which increases their awareness of themselves and the capacity of their consciousness. In Robert Fritz book The Path of Least Resistance, he describes this shift as one from a reactive to a responsive state of being. For those familiar with Robert Kegan’s work, he would describe it as a shift from a socialized mind to a self-authoring mind.
Richard Barrett’s work further helps us to see how these levels of consciousness are constructs that can be mapped out and how the value of compassion requires quite a high level to fully achieve and truly live as a way of life (rather than just being occasionally compassionate from time to time). A good example of this would be someone like Mother Teresa whose compassion was a way of life.
Your real authentic self
This all sounds challenging but there is a lot of hope once you realize how the complexity and depth of your life programming are playing out today. The key word is “awareness.” Once you are aware of how your past is continually playing out in the present, you can direct your attention to where you want your brain to develop. It continues to change every second—the term is “neuroplasticity.” Awareness creates the “space” you need to redirect your attention. Any amount will allow you to begin your journey into your new life. The sequence is 1) awareness 2) separation 3) reprogramming.
As you learn to take full responsibility for every one of your actions without judgement, you can create any reality you want by consistently making better choices. This new evolving person is still your authentic self. You just don’t have to keep searching for it.
In effect, once you become aware of your past “self” as a programmed ego construct, you are on your quest of discovering your larger True Self that lies hidden deep below it. I’ve described this like a journey to a new world, whereby you begin to discover it “within the in-between moments of the old world.” So while the “search” may be over at this point for your authentic self, as the author notes, the evolution and emergence of this large sense of Self “like a New World emerging from the Ocean of You” can still take the rest of your life to fully understand.
Given their newfound awareness, teenagers work at understanding who they are and what they believe in. Because of their limited experience, they often make the mistake of assuming that their characteristics during early adolescence represent permanent traits.
I explain to teens that the process of developing better self-understanding should be a lifelong endeavor. In the case of teens who are undergoing rapid growth, their character will naturally change a great deal by the time they become young adults. Further, character also changes as a result of how people react to various life circumstances.
Some of the teens who seek counseling from me for their anxiety have a similar profile. They tend to be gifted intellectually, sensitive, mature, and have different interests than most of their peers. They often find it easier to relate to adults than to their peers, or to lead activities with younger children with whom they do not expect to share interests. As a result, they feel different and conclude that something must be wrong with them, which contributes to exacerbating their anxiety.
Some teens are so consumed by their inability to choose a career that they feel they cannot move forward in life.
The suffering in our lives is often caused by wrong perceptions of life itself which, as we grow, develop, and mature, can hopefully be corrected with time. The number one misperception of life is that we have to figure it all out before we begin our lives. This is completely backwards, as though Life is a traditional roleplaying game, where we have to figure out our role, class, and abilities before we begin to play the game.
Instead Life is an unconventional roleplaying game whereby we understand our role, class, and abilities while we are playing the game itself. In effect, the greatest Adventure of Your Life is to “Know Thyself” which can take you your entire life to actually figure out. So the more experience you gain in life, the more you can level up your character and understand your deeper Self all the more.
For this to work though, it requires that we look at life as an adventure of many surprising, open-ended possibilities that we can forge on our own rather than a linear well-worn path that we have to follow and fit within.