Monday, May 16, 2011

Lose the Illusion; Keep the Vision

When you become disillusioned with someone or something (like an institution), do you throw your metaphorical hands up in the air and just give up? Bad idea. Because when you give up, whether it's on a person or a relationship, or an institution, you're letting what you don't want carry the day.

What am I talking about? Here are a couple of examples, one on a personal level, one on a systemic one.

First the personal:

An acquaintance of mine, Alan, in his mid-50s and newly divorced after a long marriage, is out in the dating world again. He has in mind a tall, blond, 40-ish babe, someone whom he can show off at professional functions, someone who can keep up her end of the conversation, always has on the perfect outfit and makeup, but doesn't need him to do anything for her financially. He feels that he is somehow entitled to all this.

Alan is intelligent and articulate, and not bad looking (but no Pierce Brosnan). He also has a kind of wall of anger about him that I've seen skirt dangerously on verbal abuse. (In fact, he calls himself an @$$#0|-.) He's got a doctorate and a good job, but the divorce has devastated him financially. So he's not exactly a catch for a 40 year old babe.

Within about 8 weeks of joining, Alan met someone who is in many ways the woman of his dreams! Except that he won't acknowledge it. She's  smart, educated and articulate, working at a job she loves, and has a loving presence and seems to accept him for who he is, anger and all. They both like to hike and ski -- and frequent jazz clubs. They hold the same political views. She is his age, short, dark -- and attractive in a sporty sort of way.

But Alan can't see the gem he's found, because he's got this huge illusion of who he's supposed to be with obscuring his perception. If he'd give up his illusion, he'd have a chance at a great relationship.  (Actually, I think he's avoidant, and the illusion is his method of keeping a great mate away.)

Here's what giving up illusions can do for you on a systemic level:

A colleague of mine, Jenni, whom I absolutely respect on a professional level, used to have radically different political views from mine. Of course, like me, like most of us, she would like to see a world where everyone can thrive. She just had different views about what policies and plans could get us there.

Because the financial meltdown affected her personally, though, Jenni has become willing to examine her beliefs, like the belief that our government is here to support and protect the people (the government did not adequately supervise the financial industry, leading to all kinds of financial shenanigans and eventually the financial meltdown).

Her disillusionment with the government's regulatory system has led to a complete withdrawal from political engagement because 'government sucks'. Well, it sucks if we let it. If you keep your vision, and accept the reality of what is, you can help create that vision. Only when you let go of your illusions, and see what is really there, in fact, can you become an effective change agent.

Lose your illusions, but keep the vision. Your life and the lives of other may well be better for it.

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