Steve Pavlina Hurts My Brain

If you don’t care about amatteur philosophy/self-development/logic, I recommend you ignore this post. This is a pure rant, so I’ll try to keep it short.

There’s this unbelievably popular self-development blogger Steve Pavlina. Some of his posts are quite insightful and have practical uses. Some make we want to embed my head in a concrete wall, by force. The crimes against common sense and logic are just too painful to bear.

The thing that prompted me to write this is his yesterday’s post 11:11. While it’s not the main topic in of the post, the irksome part is where Steve restates his belief that reality is defined by one’s belief. That is, anything that you encounter in the world around you is actually a product of your “true” beliefs. Any unpleasant or unexpected things are then the manifestation of a subconcious urge or somesuch. An illustrative quote :

You see… it’s part of the nature of reality that anything you experience is automatically projected within the framework of your belief system. So if you’re a hard-nosed skeptic, the 11:11 phenomena must still be validly explainable according to your current beliefs. It cannot violate your beliefs, for that would violate the cosmic principle of free will. The universe cannot show you anything which you’ve intentionally chosen to block from your reality.

The philosophical assumption of subjective reality is fine by me. It’s the subsequent inconsistency of how that assumption is used that brings the silent screams of horror (emphasis mine):

11:11’s purpose is positive, although it may not seem that way when it first takes hold. It’s purpose is ultimately to destroy your belief in a physically grounded objectified reality. This makes it possible for you to discover and perceive more accurate ways of viewing reality.

Notice anything? On the one hand, reality is supposedly defined by belief. On the other, there can exist “more accurate ways” to perceive it (= beliefs about reality). How is it possible that a belief that defines reality is an inaccurate description of reality?!

Magic and mystical theories of everything are fine by me. But when you make a statement that a particular understanding of reality is “accurate” or “inaccurate”, please keep in mind that you are by implication saying that there exists an accurate, real, objective reality. Even if this hypothetical accurate reality would be nothing like the currently accepted scientific view of the Universe, it would still be “objective” if it was true.

It just irks me. Thank you for your attention.

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9 Responses to “Steve Pavlina Hurts My Brain”

  1. AndrewYY says:

    … I am thoroughly confused by absolutely everything you and Steve Pavlina wrote… An interesting read though 🙂

  2. White Shadow says:

    Yeah, you might need a bit of background to really grok what it’s all about. But in this case my point can be summarised in a relatively straightforward way : Steve says reality is subjective, and then goes on to say that his view of reality (which is by his own definition subjective) is somehow more “real” than other views (and the scientific view in particular). It just doesn’t follow.

    I could probably go on about this for hours though 🙂

  3. Perhaps you are trying to hard to make what the guy is saying too “concrete”… and maybe he is guilty of overselling himself as someone who is capable of making matters in your life “concrete”. In my 50 years I have found most things in life to neither be 100% or completely false either, that is, other than things that people might say that are deliberately false and / or misleading, but I try, as most people do, to surround myself with people that are likely to minimize that happenning.

    Believing you create your own reality would seem to help keep us more honest, even if what we believe isnt always the way things turn out.

    Hope any of this makes sense instead of sounding like incoherent rambling.

    I’m with White Shadow: “I could probably go on about this for hours though :)”

  4. White Shadow says:

    Sure, 100% certainty is a rare/nonexistant thing in the real world. But I’ve read that (according to evolutionary psychology) we are hardwired to want that certainty, that concrete opinion.

    Believing you create your own reality would seem to help keep us more honest, even if what we believe isnt always the way things turn out.

    This is a good point.

    Personally, I’d generalize this to “beliefs that help us better achieve our goals are good.” For example, if your goal was to fly into space, the belief in Newton’s physics, gravity, etc would be useful and “good”, while the belief that you could jump to the Moon if you trained every day… probably not.

    Of course, it’s hard to apply this criteria to most of self-development writings, as they typically include the universal escape clause “it didn’t work because you didn’t really believe/intend/trust in the higher intelligence”.

    Arrgh, okay, I’m going to sleep now.

  5. Marcus says:

    Steve Pavlina is not more accurate then you are. He is just trying to explain this to the best of his ability so that it fits as many people´s world view as possible. There is no accurate or inaccurate, that is just something we have been fooled to believe.

  6. White Shadow says:

    Saying that there’s something that “we have been fooled to believe” also implicitly says that our belief is incorrect, which in turn means that there exists a more correct/accurate belief.

    I think it’s just that the “accurate” belief is subconciously perceived as being on a different meta-level, and so even a belief about beliefs isn’t considered in light of itself (no recursion).

  7. Marcus says:

    Good one 🙂 Yeah I agree, but I won´t believe it 😉

  8. lyzazel says:

    Nice catch.

  9. Alrenous says:

    You got it exactly right. I’m shocked and confused; nobody gets it right!

    Although it’s more accurate to say that Steve is failing in communication. He believes in objective reality and intention-manifestation. He calls his rationalization for this ‘subjective reality.’

    This is probably just because he can’t accept that while effective for him, the beliefs are not actually explainable (at least, so far.)

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