Reality Is Complex

Bright, motivated, aware people see what they need to do, want to do it, plan to do it, and don’t do it. The non-action has to result from some complex system of interrelated, inter-operating factors. How can this be envisioned and conceptualized to possibly be helpful?

Reality is complex.

Reality is complex. The reality of a person’s interiority – feelings, thoughts, sensations, personal history, culture and more – is also complex.

One’s perception of one’s inner consciousness might be conceptualized as a system of factors, of varying magnitude, interrelating dynamically in space.

For mental health purposes, spheres in the image might be visualized as:

Strengths. A person’s strengths, values, and priorities have power to impact the entire system in small and profound ways.

Skills. Three of the most powerful awareness skills people can use to assist themselves with mental health challenges are self-care, emotion regulation, and attention control. Skills can be used anywhere within a complex system to influence how it works.

Challenges.  Three of the top reasons people seek counseling are for help with feelings or states of anxiety and/or depression, task completion, and problematic behaviors. Acknowledging the existence of challenges within a system offers opportunities to derive strategies to address them.

Situations. People seek counseling for help with myriad situations, from relationship challenges, family conflicts, and work and school issues, to traumatic experiences and loss of loved ones. Seeing the situation as occurring within a complex system can be helpful on many levels.

Thoughts. The beautiful human brain is a thought-generating machine. Unless a person is experiencing genuine threat, most feelings result from thoughts. Central to a sense of well-being is the ability to decide which thoughts that arise will receive one’s attention. The most powerfully helpful and unhelpful thoughts can be identified within the system and addressed skillfully.


  1. Large spheres can be used to envision the magnitude of the impact of some factors on the entire system.
  2. Small spheres can be used to envision the impact of one small, conscious effort – or unconscious action – on the entire system.
  3. The size of spheres can be changed.
  4. Lines may represent many concepts. They are bidirectional.
  5. Use of any one factor may be necessary – but may not be sufficient –  to change the system. Engaging with multiple factors at varying magnitudes may be needed to change the quality of one’s inner experience and impact one’s outward actions.

I hypothesize that the extent to which people can gain awareness skills – with “awareness skills” defined as the ability to, nearly on-demand, engage in emotion regulation, attention direction, and thought management – is the extent to which they can engage in life based on their values and priorities, recover from hardships inherent to the human condition, and gain mastery of problematic patterns of feeling, thinking, behaving, working, and relating. Read more.

Image inspired by, and adapted from, work by Ben Farrell.

Thinking inspired by the systems thinking of my father, Robert H. Giles, Jr.

This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.

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