Reality Enforcement in a Consensus Reality

Reality Enforcement

The theory of reality enforcement holds that belief in consensus reality (the “reality” of “reality enforcement” is used in this sense)—on which the apparent persistence of consensus reality’s existence may depend—is “enforced” through various means applied against those who challenge it, including involuntary commitment.

Thus, believers in reality enforcement are typically sympathetic to anti-psychiatry. While mental health codes in some United States states specify that a diminished “capacity to recognize reality” (taken from some definitions of psychosis) is part of the standard for mental illness, “there is controversy over what is considered out of touch with reality.” Richard Rogers and Daniel W. Shuman, in their book Conducting Insanity Evaluations have, however, said that the standard “refers to the intactness of the individual’s perception of external stimulae” and equated it with “reality testing“,(p. 85) a definition that goes right to the heart of the argument. The validity of this as a standard in general has also been questioned. Arthur D. Hlavaty has called the unwillingness of his parents to be overly harsh in breaking down the “walls” of his Asperger syndrome an unwillingness to engage in “reality enforcement.” Some have expressed concerns on computer forums about psychiatric medication being used for “social control” and “reality enforcement.

The promotion of Consensus Reality

Reality enforcement has also been used to apply to the promotion of consensus reality, such as in education. (The term “reality enforcement” has apparently been also used in looser senses, such as a moment in which one is suddenly “jolted back” to “reality,” negative social sanctions applied to those who transgress gender norms, the correction of factual errors in print or speech or vigilance applied to the “authenticity” of a fictional world.) Reality enforcement has been characterised as a possible aspect of psychiatry or approach to or method of psychiatric practice, though its efficacy in promoting realism (in the particular case of genetic counseling) has been questioned.

Enforcers of Consensus Reality

The theory of reality enforcement is opposed by those called “reality enforcers” (or, more precisely, “enforcers of consensus reality”) by the supporters of the theory, who have been called “biased” and having a “skewed view of reality;” the term “reality enforcers” has also been used more loosely to describe those who “shore up” a “dominant paradigm” in which general belief is wavering. (Sometimes the term “reality enforcement police” is used interchangeably.) The so-called “reality enforcers” occasionally use the phrase in order to ridicule those who believe in the theory, or, more loosely what they see as farfetched or conspiracy theories generally. (It should be noted Alan C. Walter uses the phrase “reality enforcers” in a highly idiosyncratic way having nothing to do with the theory of reality enforcement.) These “reality enforcers” appeal to an objectivist theory of reality, rejecting multiple subjective realities which could diverge considerably, which contradicts the theory of “reality enforcement.”

In a more general sense, “reality enforcement” is used to mean an (often violent or forceful) ending of a “fantasy” in the person, persons or group on whom it is enacted, or the assertion, using force, of some “reality” to those who are not aware of it, or are in denial about it.

Peter Pan

Consensus reality and reality enforcement in fiction and literature

Novels and short fiction

See also: