You’re Always Wearing Virtual Reality Goggles

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Last week, a client of mine at Merlin Entertainments invited Ross and me to try out the new ‘deeper and darker’ ride at Thorpe Park, called Derren Brown’s Ghost Train ride ‘Rise of the Demon’.  (Thank you Leigh!)

I won’t give too much away (#keepthesecret).

The setting is a tube train, and ‘something’ has been disturbed from the depths.  You’re wearing a VR headset for about 70% of the experience.

I found it completely terrifying, and even had to close my eyes at a couple of points! (Although that doesn’t help much, because the staff come and touch your face or brush their hands against your legs at various points!)

Afterwards, my husband Ross just shrugged and said “I don’t know what all the fuss is about”.

We discovered later that people have different experiences.  Although the overall situation is common to all, the headsets are programmed with different scenes.  So, I might see an old woman with a black dog get into the carriage, and the person next to me may see a man dressed in Victorian clothes, and the person opposite me might see a child carrying a doll.

Thinking about the human experience, two things struck me:

Firstly, because the mind only works one-way, inside-out rather than outside-in, it’s like all of us are wearing virtual reality headsets the whole time.  We never get to take these off – they’re permanently built-in for our whole lives.  Depending on what’s playing out through thought in the moment, we all live in separate realities.

Faced with the same external circumstances, some of us experience hope, and others experience despair.  Some experience gratitude for what they already have, others create resentment about how unfair life is.

We hardly ever get to experience life 100% clean, and uncontaminated by our personal thinking.

You might think this is terrible news – until you realise that, as well as being the headset-wearer, you are also the head-set designer, creator and software programmer!

This means that you get to create horror or paradise.  Heaven  or hell.   Or anything in between.  How cool is that?

When we truly see that we aren’t experiencing the same reality as everybody else – we start to have less judgement – both of ourselves and of other people.  Everybody really is doing the best they can given the thinking that looks real to them.

Secondly, as a student of neuroscience, the experience really reminded me of the importance of mirror neurons.  In the early part of the experience, as you look around the carriage, you are alone – there’s nobody else in the carriage with you.  (Even though there are actually 60 other people sitting there!).

Whilst this was weird, somehow I was able to stay relatively calm and peaceful during this bit – even though I was seeing and hearing creepy things happening.

Later on, there are ‘other passengers’ in the carriage with you – about half a dozen of them.  They’re actors of course, and they’re freaking out.  Shouting, shaking, screaming.   As I watched other human beings so obviously terrified, I couldn’t help but ‘catch’ some of this myself, and I started to feel much more anxious and freaked out.

Even though we all live in separate realities, we are wired to feel connected.

To feel with others, to learn from others, to be influenced by others.  We can influence them too, of course.

This week, just allow yourself to notice these two things playing out in your life.

  • That other people aren’t experiencing the same reality as you are.
  • That, despite this, you are connected

Want to learn more about the understanding that’s proving a game-changer for 1000’s of people?  Join me on my 3-day He’Art of Thriving workshop – next taking place 10 – 12 May.  I promise there will be no demons.  Bring your own VR headset – you can’t not 😉

Final words from Leah Jenkins, a senior manager at BT who came to my workshop in March:  “To anybody thinking of doing this course – Go with an open mind and leave with peace of mind.”

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