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Subjective realities: why experience doesn’t make people experts

| By Robin Harrison | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Experts by experience groups are being hailed as a major breakthrough in efforts to raise player protection standards. But certified psychotherapist and addictions expert Jason Shiers argues that it’s a new perspective, not new voices, that may spur further progress
Jason Shiers

An experts by experience group has been established to help with the responsible gambling challenges facing the industry. Its role is to offer advice and feedback, sharing personal experience, perspectives and beliefs about what would make gambling safer for the end user.

The issue is there seems to be little or no understanding of subjectivity, and its relevance to any perspectives or feedback given. Whether or not people have a shared belief system is not important – there is a more valuable place to look.

Any mind that seeks to understand the nature of reality must first investigate and understand the nature of itself” – Rupert Spira

Why people believe their own thinking about the world

What most of humanity misunderstands is that life is an inside-out experience. All of us create our own experiences in the moment, by creating a picture of the outside world inside our minds. If we didn’t create our outside world through thought, then we wouldn’t experience anything.

Over time we are conditioned to relate to an objective external world that we call our reality. This is simply the innocent way of the western world. We are not born knowing separation, we are born knowing experience; we learn separation here. First we get a name, then we learn “mine” and “yours” and what we can and can’t touch. The idea of separation grows as we develop, until we become conditioned to believe that life is all about getting  our ducks in a row, metaphorically speaking. 

Once conditioning has set in, it becomes somewhat alien to see life any other way. Beliefs about how the world works, what we are doing here and where our experience comes from just look like facts. Looking in a new direction can then be quite difficult, especially when there is fear, money and self-image on the line. 

How is this relevant to problem gambling and addiction? 

This is the key to understanding problem gambling and addiction – in fact to understanding any addiction and suffering. It’s the reason why the details of the experience are often irrelevant and the wrong place to look for answers. 

We don’t need to know the details of someone’s subjective experience to help them understand how the mind works and free them from their destructive patterns. It’s looking to what the constants are, where the solutions lie, and what is true for everyone! We all have innate mental health, we all think and we all create things with our minds; this is true for everyone.

Currently, people unknowingly talk about their experiences through the lens of their installed belief system. Put another way, whatever they see will look true to them. But everyone has their own unique combination of conditioning, based on many factors:

  • Upbringing
  • Schooling
  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Social factors
  • Significant experiences 
  • Peer pressure 

So, in the case of experts by experience, the contributions made will always be different combinations derived from those multiple variables. Even though people have shared beliefs about the world, it doesn’t make the information valuable, unless we look to the subjective nature of reality.

Psychology has it backwards (and is partly responsible for the misunderstanding) 

With problem gambling and addiction, most modalities and understandings of psychology innocently have an emphasis on ‘the symptoms’ (the outward manifestation of gambling) as the problem.

There is always some element of behavioural change needed (i.e. stop gambling, control gambling, stop crime), and there is always a confirmation of the disease of addiction, a problem, or a diagnoses, mental illness or ‘brokenness’ for the client. It makes total sense to why there is so much stigma. Who would want to step forward for this?

Yet we are still fishing in the same pond, always getting the same answers. We have infinite levels of ingenuity and creativity within us to be brave enough to look in new directions, so what stops us? 

Recounting his time as director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), psychiatrist and neuroscientist Thomas Insel, MD, stated that despite spending $20bn on research, mental health had not improved in the same way that other fields such as cardiology and cancer had. In fact, NIMH hadn’t even moved the needle. Why?

A fresh perspective

Dr Thomas Kelley, Dr William Pettit, Dr Jack Pransky and Judith Sedgeman, EdD, stated in their research paper A new “inside-out” perspective on general factor p that:

Just as there is an innate health-producing design behind every human system (i.e. gastro-intestinal, cardio-vascular, excretory) we posit there is also an innate health-generating design behind the agency of thought; that virtually everyone is born thinking in an effortless, free-flowing way and experiencing mental health

What they are pointing out to us is the deep-seated mental health and the clarity of thought that is within all human beings, that we are born with, before we learn our struggles in the human experience. This is regardless of diagnoses, addiction, mental health, or other psychological struggles; they are all created by the innocent misuse of thought over time. 

What is next? 

There is strong evidence to suggest that this understanding can really help people who are struggling with problem gambling, addictions, mental illness or psychological struggles, the list goes on. 

It is this same understanding that will help revolutionise creative teams, responsible gambling teams, leadership and management teams. It points us back to the constant: the ability to access our mental health at any time and the human-to-human connection that we are born with. The source of creative potential.

If only we could see through the made-up nature of reality to which we are conditioned, then anything and everything you can think of would be possible. Trying to find ways and means to cope with the problem through behaviour is always going to be futile. 

Jason Shiers is a certified transformative coach and certified psychotherapist at UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT). Jason has been working with addictions and mental health for over 20 years in evolving ways.

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