I think hell is something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go.
– Neil Gaiman
There are three layers of reality in every situation:
1. The base layer is the factual layer, what is mechanically occurring.
2. The second layer is the informational layer, what is occurring from our perspective based on the inputs available to us.
3. The third layer is the ego layer, what we perceive to be occurring based on our world view, sculpted by our life experience and expressed in the fears, desires and beliefs we hold.
What I think Neil Gaiman is speaking to here is this third layer, the ego layer of reality and how much we let this layer rule our experience of life.
If we are experiencing life primarily in this third layer of reality, our decision making becomes extremely flawed because we allow emotion to cloud what is factually occurring and enter a distorted world of one – void of the 360-degree perspective surrounding the situation.
This point is not dismissive of intuition or gut feelings. Intuition and gut feelings can be nudges from our subconscious towards what lies beneath this emotional layer. However, it’s tricky to decipher fear from intuition and desire from gut feeling.
Those who are extremely skilled in making good decisions do so by operating at the factual base layer reality; they have a clear and accurate understanding of what is mechanically occuring, void of emotion and with as close to a 360-degree view as possible.
This does not mean we must ignore our feelings and compassion. It means quite the opposite; we must be hyper aware of emotions. We just choose not to make decisions and act based on those feelings alone. We first seek to understand what is occurring at the factual layer.
Operating from level 1 and 2 realities can be challenging at times because doing so requires honesty, both with ourselves and with others. But this is how we cleanse ourselves of what Gaiman described in the above quote as the hell we carry with us. Whether that hell exists as a small stone in our shoe or a heavy backbreaking load.
With this work comes clarity. With this clarity comes freedom. With this freedom comes the remarkable.