Kenneth Demsky PhD

Posted 22nd July 2020


What is the Reality Principle?

To ask for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD on 020 7435 6116
or send an e-mail to

The Reality Principle is a core concept within psychodynamic psychotherapy. On the most literal level, it refers to the capacity of a person to objectively perceive what is real — i.e., the nature of external reality—as opposed to engaging in a fantasy, illusion or delusion.

If one perceives reality accurately, one realises that every aspect of reality has limits without exception. The most significant of these is that each person’s lifespan is limited and that each of us therefore lives with the eventuality of dying.

Some psychologists have said that coming to terms with one’s mortality is key to our ability to have a rich and satisfying life. We acknowledge that each moment is unique and fleeting; thus we strive to pay full attention to the present moment. The best use of our limited time is to be ‘in the moment’. This way of approaching life can be contrasted with those who tend to live in the past (consumed with memories) and those who attempt to live in the future (lost in their imaginings of what might be).

An important collorary of the Reality Principle is that we must make choices in life. Since our time is limited, we need to choose how we spend it if we wish to progress. Examples of this abound every day. We cannot be in two places at the same time; there are only so many hours in a day; life is always moving forward, etc. If we choose to put our passion and time into one activity, we cannot make an equal effort about something else. It is these choices we make in recognition of the Reality Principle and the consequences that follow them that shape our destinies. If, in denial of the Reality Principle, we avoid making choices and try to hold on to all our options, our investment of caring and energy is only a fraction of what it might be, spread across several domains at the same time. We are dividing our inherently limited resources amongst several categories and will therefore achieve less. We are spreading ourselves too thin.

An important collorary of the Reality In this way, we can look at our lives as a series of conscious choices, made with awareness. and the consequences that follow these decisions. What might appear at first as a negative, the consciousness that everything in life is limited, is, in fact, the key to living well. Let me end by sharing the words seen on a plaque in a home for the aged:

An important collorary of the Reality

Yesterday is history;
The future’s a mystery;
Today is a gift;
That’s why they call it
The Present.

Posted 22nd July 2020

To ask  for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD
on 020 7435 6116
or send an e-mail to