The authors’ main point in this chapter is that reality is something that we construct, not something that objectively exists. This phenomenon originates in the differences between sensation and perception. Our way of interpreting events depends upon our paradigms, or frames of reference. We are genetically programmed to develop these frames of reference, which are dependent upon all that we have learned over the years. Two different models of reality have been developed: objectivism and constructivism.
Objectivists hold that objects and events have a reality that is independent from the observer, while constructivists (like the authors and Einstein) hold that the reality of objects and events is dependent upon their being observed. The authors discuss how major scientific breakthroughs have been preceded by changes in ways of thinking about the world (paradigm shifts). Most of the time, these paradigm shifts happen gradually, with two competing theories (the old and the new) being discussed and tested simultaneously.
One example of a gradual paradigm shift is the shift from Freud’s theory of psychosexual development to the learning theory of the Behaviorists. The authors show how resistance to these paradigm shifts in the field of science is similar to the resistance individuals experience when faced with challenges to their frames of reference. In fact, most of our perceptions are constricted by our own frames. This is a phenomenon known as selective perception. When it comes to effectiveness, the authors note that it is necessary for individuals to shift their frames of reference (reframe) in order to solve their problems.
The authors discuss previous research that has shown that laughter sparks creative, flexible thought. They stress that it is important to be able to find a way to step outside of a situation in order to understand better how we function. They recommend several strategies for accomplishing this task: picturing your life as a sitcom, seeing your life as a novel, and imagining special effects. With the second of these ideas, the authors note that particularly hard or stressful periods of your life can be viewed as chapters of a larger work.
That is to say that these stresses are momentary, not your entire life experience. With the third of these ideas, the authors provide a list of suggestions of ways to alter your thoughts in a fun way – like imaging someone who is overly critical belching. The goal of this process is to bring laughter and creative thought into your life. This process also serves as a reminder that our feelings are very closely tied to our perceptions. The authors provide a series of images that can be viewed in multiple ways in order to give the reader practice in reframing (at least in a visual context).