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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Blogs about inhabiting this present moment

Seeing Through the Ego's Fantasy-Reality Gap

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 12th 2013

“Water is wet, rocks are hard, the sky is blue, the grass is green, fires are hot, ice is cold, mountains are high and oceans are deep.”
—Adapted Zen saying

word reality made from wood blocksOne of the ego's favorite “problems” is the fantasy—reality gap, in other words, a gap between what it dreams up that we should, have to, need to, want, wish and expect (the fantasy) and the feedback from “what is” (the reality). The attitudes of wanting what is fair in an often unfair world, and wanting to be free in an often unfree world, illustrate this gap. When ego wants what it doesn't have, or it doesn't want what it does have, suffering is inevitable. Spiritual teacher Ajahn Chah says, “If it shouldn't be this way, it wouldn't be this way.” Similarly, should didn't happen, and shouldn't already happened!

The second of Buddha's four noble truths says that suffering originates in desires or attachments. Translated into modern terms, suffering results from the desire that life be different from what it is now. Yet desires do not so much create the actual suffering as the compulsive holding on to and identification with desire do. A first step to peace lies in an easy, relaxed acceptance of “what is” here and now.

This “gap” presents a riddle since reality is, after all, just the way it is free of the mind's past conditioning. For instance, releasing the ego's urge to compare and evaluate itself with others fosters genuine inner peace. To release evaluating oneself against others helps to release the unrelenting search for happiness. Paradoxically, once we let go of the craving for unrelenting pleasures—what some call the “hedonic treadmill”—then honest contentment and happiness become a possibility. One can appreciate that true happiness is a by-product of fulfilling relationships, rewarding work well done, and contribution to the greater good. We can emerge from suffering once we fully see through the ego's fantasy—reality gap. Seeing through illusions opens an appreciation of “what is.”

All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.

Happiness is likely to be “having what you want” leavened with gratitude. Rabbi Hyman Schachtel also wisely proposed, “Happiness is not having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.” When one wants what one has and one doesn't want what one doesn't have, the fantasy-reality gap closes and stillness, peace and sanity naturally reign. This is the springboard of our dearest yearnings, all to spearhead and manifest our heartfelt dreams and inspired visions. To live in truth takes practice, practice, practice…in surrender, surrender, surrender…every moment, moment, moment.


Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician in private practice in Pleasanton, CA in the East San Francisco Bay area. Licensed as a psychologist in California since 1987 and in the field since 1976, he specializes in Presence-centered therapy principally with adults and couples. Presence-centered therapy is a conscious attuning to the richness of this present moment (sometimes called mindfulness or wakefulness) along with witnessing, that is, observing what the mind is up to now by looking from outside of it. His practice is centered upon inhabiting this present moment, witnessing and "buying out" of the ego-mind's unworkable patterns, desensitizing root emotional charges, and gaining effective tools to thrive in the world. He specializes in providing therapy for adults facing anxiety, significant stress, work issues, relationship challenges and depression as well as couples with marital issues, communication issues, self-defeating behavior, divorce mediation, co-parenting and pre-marital counseling. Core to his approach is installing, building and developing strong internal resources, an enhanced capacity to hold, bear and tolerate strong emotions, and highly adaptive tools to better thrive in the world.He can be reached directly through his website (featuring over 215 articles, 27 YouTube videos and pages upon pages of highly practical annotated resource links) or by email at . Dr. Friedman is available for business consulting, business training and executive coaching (detail on his home page).

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