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The Extrinsic Reality

The extrinsic reality is made up entirely of pressure – that’s all it is, just pressure, nothing else. Extrinsic reality is pure pressure and nothing more. This pressure comes in two apparently different forms – the ‘positive’ form and the ‘negative’ one. Positive pressure is coercion to do something, coercion to carry out some specified action or obtain some specified outcome, whilst negative pressure on the other hand is coercion to not do something, to not incur some specified outcome. In the simplest terms therefore, pressure always comes down to ‘do’ versus ‘don’t’, YES  versus NO…

 

 

The extrinsic reality is not generally called anything special; we normally just know it as ‘reality’ or ‘the world’ or ‘life’ and as such we take it for granted as just being ‘the way things are’. But if the extrinsic reality is life as we commonly know it, and if it is entirely made up of pressure or coercion (as we have said it is) then why aren’t we aware of this fact? Why don’t we notice the extraordinary fact that we live in a world that is made up entirely of ‘external pressure’? We do notice the existence of pressure in our lives from time to time of course and we will say at such times that we’re ‘stressed out’ but this only happens when the ‘pressure-dial’ goes into the red. The rest of the time we just don’t notice; the rest of the time we’re blind to the back-ground pressure. The rest of the time we just ‘function as always’, we just ‘get on with it’.

 

 

The reason we don’t notice the background pressure is of course because we are able to successfully adapt ourselves to it. A perfect example of what we’re talking about here is our everyday life in the social arena or ‘realm of social interaction’ where we usually spend so much of our time. We can consider this ‘realm of social interaction’ as a conditioned space within certain behaviours, certain responses are allowed and all others are not. There’s pressure in the social arena, in other words, whether we see it or not. Very obviously, most of us don’t perceive the existence of a constant background pressure in the everyday realm of social interaction. One only needs to sit in a social space for a while and look around to see this – everything seems to be happening quite freely, quite naturally. We don’t tend to see the rules. There is no sense of ‘conforming to a pattern’, no sense of ‘playing by the rules’.

 

 

The perception that we’re not following rules in the realm of social interaction is an illusion however – what’s happening is that we are ‘taking the rules for granted’ and this of course means that we become blind to them. Anything we take for granted is like that – taking something for granted means that we no longer see it, it means that we stop paying any attention to it. When we adapt to a structure or logical system it becomes – in a subjective way – an ‘open space’ to us; it isn’t any sort of an open space at all but we perceive it as being so all the same. The structure gets miraculously transformed into what it isn’t therefore: following rules subjectively seems to us like not following rules; following rules seems to us to be the very same thing as ‘being free’!

 

 

This is a very remarkable type of illusion that we’re talking about here. A structure manifests itself (subjectively) as an open space. Rules no longer seem to be there. A conditioned reality appears to be unconditioned. The game we’re playing appears to be no game, which is a deception, which is a lie. It has to be a lie because the whole point of a structure is that it is structured, is that there is no unformatted space in it. ‘Space’ and ‘structure’ are mutually exclusive things, just as ‘rules’ and ‘freedom’ are. The extrinsic reality has no space in it; as we have said, as we’ve said, there’s nothing in it but pure pressure. Pressure means that things have to be a certain way. So when we conform to the pressure (the pressure to be whatever way we’re supposed to be) then – apparently – there is no more pressure. Apparently, when we move in the direction we’re being compelled to move in, the pressure is taken off us. After we obey the rule successfully, then we are – apparently – free…

 

 

This cessation of the pressure is an illusion, however. Conformity to the structure does not release us from the structure. What has actually happened when we conform to the structure is that we have – without realizing it – stepped into ‘the domain of the unreal’. In this realm, because we have had everything externally decided for us by the format, by the logical system, we have avoided the essential ‘existential challenge’ of life. Because we have neatly avoided or side-stepped the existential challenge of life this means that we have incurred (without knowing it) a particular type of pain, a type of pain that comes about as a result of us no longer living authentically. The fact that we do not know this pain to be there constrains us all the more because this ‘existential pain’ has now been ominously consigned to somewhere out of sight and we are now saddled with the onerous task of keeping it there, keeping it ‘out of sight’, even though we do not know that we are doing so. We have been sucked into a full-time job therefore, and the fact this job is ultimately unsustainable (along with the fact that we can neither allow ourselves to know that we’re engaged in it or that it is unsustainable) only goes to make it a more effective trap. An alternative way of explaining this ‘entrapment mechanism’ is to say that when we adapt to the rules, when we ‘play the game that we’re not playing the game’, then we lose our true selves. To adapt oneself to the system (to an extrinsic reality) is to turn one’s back on one’s true nature, and this always equals pain…

 

 

What we’re saying here therefore is that existence within the terms of the system equals pain, is inseparable from pain. To conform to the given structure (i.e. to give in to the pressure to conform without seeing that we are giving in) is to thoroughly lose one’s true self, is to be completely disconnected from one’s true self. There is absolutely no way to ‘give into the pressure without knowing that we are’ without at the same time turning our back on who we are, without losing our connection to our own true nature. This just can’t happen – we can’t have it both ways. If we want to play the game (which is to say, if we want to ‘play the game without knowing that we are’) then we have to be cut off or disconnected from who we really are, and being cut off or disconnected from who we really are also means not being able to be aware of the pain that comes about as a result of this disconnection. The pain has been created, and cannot be escaped from, but there is no way for us to be directly aware of it…

 

 

As we have already said, not being able to be aware of existential pain / the pain of being disconnected feeds right back into the system and keeps us more effectively than ever. The pain is still there but we’re not connected to it – it’s floating around, we’re refusing to ‘own’ it, we’re not admitting to it. This adds incentivization to the whole thing – the pain that we don’t want to admit to has effectively become a ball that we can – in principle – effectively throw far, far away from ourselves. It has become open for negotiation whether we get stuck with it or not, and not getting stuck with the pain in question is a very appealing possibility! It’s the most appealing possibility ever… When we push the pain away from ourselves, when we smash it back over the net with our racket, then this is called ‘winning’ and everyone sees this as the greatest thing ever, the most wonderful and exciting thing ever. But by the very same token, not being able to push the pain away, not being able to knock it for six, or have it come right back at us in a way that we cannot effectively resist, must be the worst thing ever, the most dreadful and frightening thing.

 

 

Having to run away from the un-owned existential pain (without being able to see that we are running away from it) is the unrelenting pressure that is driving the whole show. It’s the most fundamental (and therefore unquestionable) orientation there is in the game – it’s the bias in the system, the bias we can’t perceive to be a bias. Whenever we talk about or thinking about ‘freedom’ therefore what we’re really talking about / thinking about is the freedom to escape from our own unacknowledged existential pain. This is how we define ourselves – in terms of our victory over our existential pain, in terms of our successful escape from the ‘pain of not being ourselves’. This sort of ‘freedom’ is not freedom at all therefore – it is the very antithesis of freedom, even though we are quite unable to see this. The type of freedom we’re chasing (when we’re living our lives in the extrinsic reality realm) is nothing other than disguised slavery. The ‘pressure’ that is acting on us in the extrinsic reality is thus the pressure to escape from existential pain, the pain that is incurred by us handing over responsibility for our lives to the system without seeing that we are doing so, without us admitting to the fact that we are doing so, and this pain always manifests in two ways, the positive way and the negative. ‘Positive pressure’ is when we are coerced to carry out some specific action (which is represented to us as a glorious step towards being free from existential pain) and ‘negative pressure’ means that we are being coerced to avoid a particular situation or a particular outcome (because that situation or outcome unconsciously represents being landed with the existential pain whose existence we are not brave enough to admit to).

 

 

So this then is the type of pressure that the extrinsic reality is made up of – the pressure to escape from a type of pain which is legitimately ours, and which cannot therefore be escaped from! Or as we could also say, the extrinsic reality is made up of a type of pain which is legitimately ours but which is being presented to us by the system as not necessarily being ours. The game (or system) is selling us a particular type of freedom therefore – the freedom to escape from our own disowned existential pain. In order to stand a chance of being able to avail of this offer of freedom, providing of course that we buy into the system 100%; providing that we commit ourselves to its unexamined assumptions unreservedly and never ever start examining them. The system is thus holding a particularly effective threat over our heads – the threat that we may not be able to successfully rid ourselves of our own existential pain (which is of course not to be seen as such). The sneaky thing here however is that it is precisely our loyalty to the system – our blind commitment to it – that is creating the existential pain in the first place! It is the fact that we have bought into the extrinsic reality that has caused us to lose ourselves, and thus incur ‘the pain of not being ourselves’, and this very pain is now being used against us to build the bars and bricks of our prison cell…

 

 

This goes far beyond what we normally understand by the word ‘irony’ – we lose our connection with reality, we lose our connection with ourselves, we lose all our autonomy, all our freedom, and then the pain of this loss gets re-packaged and sold back to us as some kind of hope. The pain of what has already happens gets disguised as the threat of what might happen to us if we fail to commit to the system, if we fail to donate our complete and unwavering loyalty to it. Our dissociated existential pain has – very curiously – been turned into both a threat and a lure at the same time. The threat is that the pain we’re trying to avoid will stick to us forever like some sort of nasty stigma (if we don’t play the game to the best of our ability) and the lure is that we may win freedom from the stigma and gain glory instead (again, only if we learn off all the rules by heart and play the game with sufficient skill and dedication). And yet as we have said, the event we fear (in a dissociated / displaced kind of a way) has already come to pass; the event in question (Jean Baudrillard’s ‘Murder of the Real’) has been totally denied and has – in the process – been diffracted into two hallucinatory images – one of the dreadful fate that has not yet happened and which therefore may yet be avoided, and the other of wonderful triumphant outcome of ‘success in the struggle’ which also hasn’t happened yet but which may possibly be secured, if we struggle hard enough. The full-scale denial of what is thus gets turned into an illusory PLUS / MINUS polarization!

 

 

All games are like this, all games work by denying who we really are. All games work by substituting a bountiful and unsurpassed reality with a vastly cruder and meaner analogue of the original. All games work by substituting their own biased, over-simplified, compulsion-driven version of reality for the real thing, which is quintessentially free from all biases, from all sneaky agendas, from all petty compulsions to do this or do that. Games – although we very rarely have any insight into the fact – are like ‘upside-down’ versions of reality; they present us with a ‘perverted view of reality’. Reality – we might say – is infinitely generous in its nature and bestows all its blessings on us right at the start, without us needing to do anything. It then leaves us to do as we will, without any stipulations, without any strings attached, without any clauses and qualifications, without any bits of paper that we have to sign. Games – on the other hand – work in exactly the opposite way. Games give us nothing to start off with – they take everything away from us, leaving us completely impoverished, leaving us 100% in need of external validation. Our only chance of redemption (from our ignominious state) is to sign all the bits of paper that we are given, to accept without quibble all the qualifications and stipulations, to waiver all rights to self-determination and generally ‘sign away our souls’! And even then – after all that – the system will cheat us. It will cheat us rotten. It will cheat us rotten every time… The system will never relinquish its power over us; the one thing it is never going to give us is our freedom!

 

 

The key to understanding what all this talk about ‘the extrinsic reality’ is all about lies in the name itself. The extrinsic reality is a reality that is made up – as we have said – of external pressure. It’s a reality that exists outside of us, in other words, and the pertinent point here is that there is no such place. There is no reality that exists outside of us! There is no ‘outside’. Any sort of venture that takes place in this external reality is therefore doomed to failure right from the start. The extrinsic reality doesn’t exist, it is an impossibility and because it is an impossibility so too are our chances of getting anywhere with the task that we have been given in this world, the task that we are always trying so hard to succeed at. There are no meaningful outcomes to be had in the extrinsic reality, no matter how we play it. More than just ‘the realm of impossibility’, extrinsic reality is the realm of denied impossibility. It’s a fantasy world, it’s a world of dreams! What we are trying so desperately to achieve in this world is simply not possible, and yet this fundamental impossibility is the one thing we can never see. I can’t do what I am under so much pressure to do (how can I ever run away from my own existential pain) and – what is more – the one who is trying so hard to run away, the one who under all the pressure, the one who has conformed to the rule, to the system, isn’t who I am anyway. That ‘conditioned self’ isn’t anyone, doesn’t even exist, never even could exist. So the self which isn’t who I am (and which doesn’t and couldn’t exist anyway) is trying to achieve what never can be achieved, and – ludicrously – this absolutely fantastical exercise in futility is what I am pinning all my hopes on..!

 

 

One way to try to explain what this exercise in fantasy is all about (what the extrinsic reality is all about) is to say that it comes about as the inevitable result of our profound laziness – we’re far too lazy to approach to the true task of life (which is having the courage to be) so we embark on the dummy (or ‘surrogate’) task instead.  The true task (which isn’t really a task as such) is simply to unconditionally accept the bounty that we have been freely given (in other words, ‘the challenge is simply to take the risk of partaking in reality’). This however is far too daunting a proposition for all but the bravest souls so what we do instead is embark on the surrogate task instead, which is a hell of a lot easier. The ‘surrogate task’ is simply to achieve the correct outcome in a mechanical or rule-based process – we’re told what it is we are to achieve and we’re told how we are to go about achieving it, and all that is left for us is just to ‘follow instructions’. This is a hell of a lot easier, but only at the price of being (ultimately) impossible; it’s ultimately going to prove impossible because the dummy task represents ‘denying our own freedom’, which we can’t do.  It’s ‘easy but pointless’, in other words…

 

 

Another way of explaining the extrinsic reality is to say that this is a realm in which are constantly being controlled by our own unacknowledged fear. ‘The extrinsic reality’ is just a fancy way of talking about the realm of fear – the realm of impoverishment, where we are forever being led on by hollow promises. The ‘pressure’ that we have been talking about is therefore fear and just so long as we are reacting to this fear (just as long as we are running away from it) we have no actual being, we have no actual presence. We exist as ‘the absences of ourselves’, as ‘the empty impotent shadows of ourselves’. The ‘pressure’ which is defining us in the extrinsic reality is nothing other than pure existential terror and as long as we let this terror define us, we are not ourselves. In running away from existential terror we become mere empty reflexes, incapable of anything other than ‘doing what the fear makes us do, and being who the fear makes us be’. Fear that we cannot see as such (i.e. fear that we are in denial of) is what we have been calling the extrinsic reality and ‘what this extrinsic reality makes us be’ is not who we really are, but rather it is an infinitely degraded version of who we really are, a mockery of who we really are…

 

 

 

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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