Disillusion is one of the toughest human emotions to manage but the right approach can allow you to turn it into an ally.
Let’s start by agreeing what disillusion is. Disillusion is that moment when you first discovered that Santa Claus didn’t exist. It’s when you realized that people you love do in fact die. And it’s when you have everything you dreamed of and are still not happy. It’s also when your dreams get taken from you, or when the imagined future ceases to exist.
Disillusion is a lot of things. Ultimately it’s the byproduct of tearing down a fabricated reality. And as all realities are in some way constructs, living is a constant act of illusion and disillusion.
In “normal” times, illusions seem real, permanent, reliable. In times of crisis, illusions revert back to their normal state: flaky constructs. I want to make clear that seeing the dark side, losing hope, or expeiencing massive uncertainty do not necessarily result in negative emotions. What does result in a negative experience is the stark contrast between the illusion and it no longer being there.
So disillusion is above all the by product of a movement from point A to point B. Which leads me to my first key point.
The Stronger You Hold on to Point A the Stronger the Disillusion
If you still want to believe that Santa Claus does exist (Point A) even after seeing that it was just someone dressed up in a suit (Point B), you are in for a path of pain. The sooner you embrace Point B as your new reality and entirely forget about Point A, the less you will grieve. And in this metaphor if you think about it, there is no practical change to the outcome. You still get gifts but you grieve over how those gifts got there. Why? Because there is a sense of betrayal, of being lied to, cheated, played. That’s how we feel when we discover that things are not what we made them out to be.
You can imagine it’s not easy for a kid to let go of the years imagining a friendly Santa Claus driving his reindeer and climbing down chimneys to deliver gifts to kids all over the world. And it’s not different for us. It’s excruciatingly difficult to let go.
Think about it from a neural perspective. All your neural paths are carved in one direction and now out of the blue they need to flow differently. It’s literally a spiritual brain freeze in slow motion.
Our response to disillusion has always been to give our lives for the preservation of the status quo. But when that’s just not possible, we have no choice but to let go. Which brings me to my second key point.
Learn how to Own and Create New Illusions
I don’t think it’s entirely possible. But if I were to fully let go of the past reality and fully embrace the new as the only reality, I would also release myself to shape this new reality as I see best fit.
We are used to being suggested what illusions to hold onto. We are not used to owning and creating our own. Take for instance Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful. Even while imprisoned in a concentration camp he goes at great lengths to turn it into a game for his son. It is one of the most heart breaking scenes I have ever witnessed.
And that’s what we have to learn how to do with ourselves. We can either be self-quarantined or have self-decided to focus on our homes. The same experience can feel like house arrest or like an opportunity to focus on your lair.
The challenge again is that we have bought so dearly into all of the social fabric of illusions. Social ladder, materialism, success, luxury, all concepts that are far more fabrications than reality. As Seinfeld said in his latest special “I think one of the greatest lessons you can learn in life is that sucks and great are pretty close.” Which brings me to my third point:
Make Space for Love, Laughter and Gratitude
When something dear gets taken away from us we are not happy campers obviously. As I said before we feel cheated, violated, shocked. All of these emotions crowd your unconscious and more uplifting emotions like love, laughter and gratitude get cramped in some hidden corner: make room for them.
Water them, give them light, nurture them. Don’t force these emotions into existence. Forget going artificially through a gratitude list. Try to tap in the deepest most raw expessions of happiness you have ever experienced through some simple meditation. There is no need for an app or even to sit with your legs crossed. Lean into your wealth of experiences and remember those things no matter how small that make everything better. A bowl of hot oatmeal, a deep hug from someone at some point in your life, or a sunset. The situation does not matter. What matters is remembering those small beautiful things.
And it’s ok if at first you don’t feel anything or can’t tap into anything positive. Remember it can take weeks before a seed begins to germinate. Even when it seems that nothing is happening, something is happening.
Create an alternate reality that you can depend on, based on current or past sensorial experiences. But dig your head like an ostrich into that. Forget about whatever things are fed into your brain about the current state of affairs and build your own. Which brings me to my final point:
Don’t pretend like it’s all good
This may seem contradictory but the more you create your own illusion the more this illusion will clash with the illusion being presented to you. We know the illusion being presented to all of us: death, isolation, disease, despair, uncertainty, chaos, hopelessness. And I’m not saying that we should ignore it. Quite the contrary: we must digest it.
But you can’t digest it if you are reveling in it. Then it takes over you. You need to anchor down in point B in order to begin to process the end of point A. I can’t stress this enough.
And you are in for a ride. Because the more you create beauty in your newfound point B, the starker the contrast with reality you will experience. That means you will have highs and low’s that are unexeplainable. That some days you will feel on top of the world and others you will have to drag yourself out of bed. And it’s ok. Accept that. If you don’t grieve, you can never really bury the past and it will just linger on.
There is a fine abyss between things happening to you and you making things happen. It’s rarely one or the other. More often a delicate dance between acting and reacting.
Overwhelming situations will typically push us to the back-seat where we are no longer driving but reacting to the environment around us.
When we begin to own the construct of our reality, life changes dramatically. And it’s not necessarily for the better. It just changes. Whatever you are experiencing, you just own it more. And I can’t think of anything more powerful than that.
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