Reality Enforcement in a Consensus Reality
The theory of reality enforcement holds that belief in consensus reality (the “reality” of “reality enforcement” is used in this sense)—on which the apparent persistence of consensus reality’s existence may depend—is “enforced” through various means applied against those who challenge it, including involuntary commitment.
Thus, believers in reality enforcement are typically sympathetic to anti-psychiatry. While mental health codes in some United States states specify that a diminished “capacity to recognize reality” (taken from some definitions of psychosis) is part of the standard for mental illness, “there is controversy over what is considered out of touch with reality.” Richard Rogers and Daniel W. Shuman, in their book Conducting Insanity Evaluations have, however, said that the standard “refers to the intactness of the individual’s perception of external stimulae” and equated it with “reality testing“,(p. 85) a definition that goes right to the heart of the argument. The validity of this as a standard in general has also been questioned. Arthur D. Hlavaty has called the unwillingness of his parents to be overly harsh in breaking down the “walls” of his Asperger syndrome an unwillingness to engage in “reality enforcement.” Some have expressed concerns on computer forums about psychiatric medication being used for “social control” and “reality enforcement.”
The promotion of Consensus Reality
Reality enforcement has also been used to apply to the promotion of consensus reality, such as in education. (The term “reality enforcement” has apparently been also used in looser senses, such as a moment in which one is suddenly “jolted back” to “reality,” negative social sanctions applied to those who transgress gender norms, the correction of factual errors in print or speech or vigilance applied to the “authenticity” of a fictional world.) Reality enforcement has been characterised as a possible aspect of psychiatry or approach to or method of psychiatric practice, though its efficacy in promoting realism (in the particular case of genetic counseling) has been questioned.
Enforcers of Consensus Reality
The theory of reality enforcement is opposed by those called “reality enforcers” (or, more precisely, “enforcers of consensus reality”) by the supporters of the theory, who have been called “biased” and having a “skewed view of reality;” the term “reality enforcers” has also been used more loosely to describe those who “shore up” a “dominant paradigm” in which general belief is wavering. (Sometimes the term “reality enforcement police” is used interchangeably.) The so-called “reality enforcers” occasionally use the phrase in order to ridicule those who believe in the theory, or, more loosely what they see as farfetched or conspiracy theories generally. (It should be noted Alan C. Walter uses the phrase “reality enforcers” in a highly idiosyncratic way having nothing to do with the theory of reality enforcement.) These “reality enforcers” appeal to an objectivist theory of reality, rejecting multiple subjective realities which could diverge considerably, which contradicts the theory of “reality enforcement.”
In a more general sense, “reality enforcement” is used to mean an (often violent or forceful) ending of a “fantasy” in the person, persons or group on whom it is enacted, or the assertion, using force, of some “reality” to those who are not aware of it, or are in denial about it.
Consensus reality and reality enforcement in fiction and literature
- Norman O. Brown’s book Love’s Body discusses reality enforcement.
- Dr. Louis Sass’ book Madness and Modernism argues for some supranormal cognitive aspects to schizophrenia, and against the view that it is a purely degenerative disorder.
Novels and short fiction
- In the play Peter Pan by writer J. M. Barrie the hero rejects adult reality by flying to Neverland. Fairies like Tinkerbell only survive if children believe in them.
- Various dystopian novels, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), and its concept of groupthink, feature a highly controlled consensus reality.
- The works of Philip K. Dick often involve shifts in or deviations from consensus reality.
- In Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld, Gods and such entities exist because of sufficient belief in them, without which they fade away.
- Kim Newman’s novel Jago focuses on the consequences of a breakdown in consensus reality.
- In Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Rant, the eponymous character contends that “reality is a consensus“.
- The works of Robert Anton Wilson usually discuss consensus reality.
- Karl Schroeder’s novel Lady of Mazes posits a society with technologically-enforced separate realities; the protagonist can switch between them, and rebuilds a shared consensus reality.
- Neil Gaiman features consensus reality in much of his work, including Sandman, Neverwhere, and American Gods.
- Nancy Kress’s short story The Flowers of Aulit Prison and the related Probability Space series deal with a species whose consensus reality is propagated and enforced biologically.
- Consensual reality is a recurring theme in the short-story book “Dreams Underfoot” by Charles de Lint.
- Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks contains a group of solipsist characters who believe there is no existing reality outside their own minds. Every person and every thing they meet/perceive are figments of their imaginations designed by their deeper thought processes to either help or challenge them. As a group they enjoy some form of consensus reality in that they all believe the same thing, only differing over which person is the originator of their own perceived reality.
- Solaris by Stanislaw Lem is also a good example of consensus reality in film and literature.