Are you image driven or reality driven?

What’s happening in your mind when you’re in the grip of negative emotions and how do you make the best use of those situations so you can learn from them and feel better the next time you end up in a similar situation?

According to Dr Nick Hall, we don’t react to reality. We react to images or interpretations of reality.


He describes how an artist uses her surroundings to create an image but doesn’t create the image based completely on reality. She uses only what she needs to suit the image she’s creating and also adds things into the image that may not be present in reality. He suggests we do the same with the images we create in our minds. We leave things out, add things in and distort things and this process is shaped by¬†our beliefs. This is neither positive nor negative but can have positive or negative effects on our wellbeing, health and happiness. In this podcast, I’m looking specifically at image driven behaviour that has a detrimental effect.

Although this post is titled “Are you Image driven or Reality driven”, the likelihood is that you’re both. Most of us switch between the two, depending on the situation, the beliefs and the emotional triggers involved.

How to tell if you’re image driven

  1. You will ignore or refute information that doesn’t fit with the image
  2. The negative feelings that result from the situation don’t eventually lead to something positive – such as self-reflection or making a change for the better
  3. You experience similar situations the same way over and over, making them a possible source of stress or anxiety

How to tell if you’re reality driven

  1. You seek additional information that doesn’t necessarily fit with your image. You ask questions, listen, look around to see what’s happening, test your assumptions etc.
  2. You consider your emotions with curiosity rather than trying to shut them down or experience something else.
  3. You willingly try new things to see what happens to the image and your subsequent experiences. This may involve seeking counselling or coaching, talking about the situation with the person or people involved, experimenting with different approaches to see what happens etc.

So what?

When you find yourself regularly repeating the same patterns in your life – fights with a spouse or housemate, shouting at your kids, withdrawing at work etc. – it’s worth examining the images you’ve created in your mind related to these people and events.

  • What beliefs do you hold about what should / shouldn’t ‘t be happening?
  • What are you labelling as “good” or “bad”? Could these be challenged?
  • What are you ignoring within these situations?
  • What are you embellishing or adding to your image in relation to these situations?
  • What useful information is your reaction giving you about yourself and what you value?
  • What can you do with this new information to help you manage these situations in ways that feel more productive for you and the other person / people involved?

Keeping a journal, reflecting on your experiences and asking yourself questions such as those listed here will help you make sense of how your images shape your feelings and reactions. This knowledge is useful if you decide you want to make a change as it helps you work out how best to do that.

Related podcasts

The experiencing self versus the remembering self

Where do beliefs come from?

How to challenge a belief


I am not a psychologist. The information in this blog and the accompanying podcast is based on my experience and learning and should not be taken as therapeutic advice.

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