Dealing with Disillusionment

Recently I had the eye-popping, gut-wrenching experience of finding out that someone I trusted misled me, big-time! The deception was one of omission, not commission, a glossing-over that left out key information. There were no serious consequences other than disillusionment on my part. Still, finding out that someone I trust has deceived me is a setback, to say the least. The questions remain: How could I have been so duped, gotten sucked in so totally? How could my perceptions have been so different from reality?

It strikes me that the answer lies right smack in the word “disillusionment.” In order to be disillusioned, one must have an “illusion” to start with. According to Merriam-Webster, an illusion is:

b (1) : perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature

It seems that we often see what we want to see, or, as someone once said to me, “Believing is seeing.” We are only disillusioned when we have an illusion – a misperception – to begin with. There is no disillusionment in reality. Disappointment, perhaps, but not disillusionment.

In this case, I saw the surface situation – the illusion – and took the cursory explanation for it at face value, looking no deeper. I trusted the person involved. I didn’t even imagine there could be more than met my eye. I didn’t want to see manipulation, so I didn’t look for it.

I have to say that I’d rather be duped occasionally than be so jaded that I am always doubting information that comes at me, but I wonder if there is something to be learned here.

We can never, really, totally know another person’s motivations, even those of people we think we know well, people we trust. Trouble creeps in when we assign meaning beyond the directly observable facts, when we hear more than is actually being said, when we jump to conclusions based on partial information. This leads us to fill in the blanks with what we’d like to be true without really knowing if it is true.

The only constructive take-away I can come up with (I need one, you see!) is to remind myself to stay open and aware, to be conscious about taking in what is actually going on around me instead of jumping to conclusions, so that I do not create illusions in the first place. (No illusions = no disillusionment.)

Ah, but how to do that? Step one: slow down. When in doubt, when situations are a bit dicey or unclear, I need to slow down! I need to listen. Listen extra carefully. I need to be respectful, but unafraid to ask questions and speak my truth.

Beyond that, I don’t know. . . Perhaps the lesson is to expect less from people, starting with myself. That, and that forgiveness is important in this less-than-perfect world, where most people try to do their best most of the time, and sometimes, deception creeps in, perhaps not so much intentionally but because inside, we are all of us, fragile and vulnerable human beings. Expecting less means forgiving more, although it does not mean forgetting. Actions have consequences, and wariness after deception is an appropriate, healthy response.

In the end, though, forgiveness beats being jaded, hands down, because forgiving sets us free – free to carry on to negotiate another day, another situation, with an open heart. I’m wishing for a tidier conclusion, but life is messy and untidy. Awareness, honesty, and forgiveness: for lack of an easy, pat answer for dealing with disillusionment, these seem like good places to start . . .