Monday, January 27, 2014

Delusions

Over the years I have become something of an expert at self-delusion. I can honestly convince myself, short of defying the laws of physics, of almost anything. I hasten to add I am not so delusional that I am unaware that they are delusions, but they are harmless, and they give me a great degree of comfort.

My chief delusion is that I am ageless...well, actually I'm somewhere...anywhere...under the glass ceiling between youth and maturity. This delusion is quite easy to maintain except for when I am in the presence of reflective surfaces, and even then I can sometimes convince myself that I have absolutely no idea who that person is. I adopted this particular form of illusion from Don Quixote, whose ultimate enemy was a mirror.

Delusions are the armor many of us don to do battle with the world. They protect us...some to a greater degree than others...from the harshness of reality, and as long as they do no harm to ourselves or others, there is no real need to dissuade ourselves of them. 

I've often used the example of one of the characters from the play "The Madwoman of Chaillot" who, every day, year after year, read the same newspaper—-the same newspaper—because she liked the news in it. What was really happening in the world neither affected or concerned her. I empathize with her completely. I often choose to simply ignore those things which I know would make me unhappy if I were to acknowledge them. I may be deluding myself, but what does it matter, really?

Most delusions are restricted to the mind of the deluded, and it is only when they take physical manifestation do they normally call the attention of others. (The mental picture springs to mind of a 240 pound woman in a bikini, or the elderly man with a black toupee plopped atop the grey hair of his sideburns. And even then, they more often affect the viewer than the wearer.) We all see ourselves very differently than other people see us, but the more delusional we are, the greater the gap in perception.

Like most things, delusions can be positive or negative. I constantly berate and belittle myself for every perceived imperfection and flaw, and for falling far short of who I feel I should be. Yet this is as unfair as deluding myself into assuming the possession of sterling qualities not in fact in existence. I know I'm not...nor could I be...quite as worthless and stupid as I too frequently paint myself as being. But I do it partly out of disappointment that I am not living up to my own potential, or to what I perceive myself as being. And I have, as I've mentioned frequently, an odd compulsion to point out my failings as a first-strike defense against having other people do it for me. ("You don't have to tell me how bad I am: I already know.")

I honestly envy some people their delusions—specifically those which lead them to believe they can accomplish things which reality clearly says is far beyond their reach. Their delusions encourage them to get out there and at least try for something they really want, even though the odds are clearly or even overwhelmingly stacked against them. They are far better off than people like me, who don't try for something I am convinced I can never achieve. 

The wondrous thing is that many of the major advances in science and technology throughout history have been achieved by people everyone assumed to be delusional. 

I am really quite comfortable with my own delusions. They're like an old robe or favorite pair of slippers I wear constantly. And I truly believe the world would be a happier and less stressful place if more people allowed themselves to indulge their own.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

3 comments:

Kage Alan said...

You nailed this one, D. I still think of myself as younger than I am. My body reminds me this isn't true after I return from shoveling snow, but it remains so in my mind.

I continue to see a lifetime of possibilities even though, quite honestly, half of my life is most likely over.

I continue to delude myself into thinking there's still a sliver of my father that must be able to shine through from time to time and see the world as he did prior to Alzheimer's. He doesn't. And my mother continues to delude herself into thinking maybe there will be a cure in what time he has left. There most likely won't be.

But these delusions are okay to believe in for the moment. If there is harm to come, it'll be later and we will perhaps be in a better position to deal with them then.

Chloe Thurlow said...

Nice post. I did start wondering if I were a cat or a dog person and realised I was probably a bird person, flighty, always fluffing up my feathers, and I do like to sing (when alone, of course).

Dorien Grey said...

Good points, Chloe. Birds are beautiful, but I find it both sad and unnatural for any living creature to be caged.