(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Letting Go of Illusions

Pain is inevitable in life, whether we are talking about physical aches or emotional ones.  An important part of being mentally healthy and having a happy life is understanding that while pain is going to visit us from time to time, suffering is optional.  A major of suffering for many of us is our attachment to illusions.

Illusions come from all sorts of places.  Sometimes we are unaware of how the world around us is changing; things that were once true no longer are.  This can happen very easily in the world of work.  Some researchers estimate that 90% of all American jobs become obsolete every decade – that is, the skills that were sufficient to perform well ten years ago are no longer enough today.  Not noticing these changes makes us vulnerable to unemployment.

Other illusions may center on the way we view ourselves.  We hold onto ideas of how we used to be, despite evidence that we aren’t as generous, charming, witty or youthful as we imagine ourselves to be. Perhaps the most painful illusions are those we have about other people and our relationships.  This is especially true when we form attachments to people that aren’t based on reality.

Buddhists believe that attachment is the source of much suffering in life.  That is certainly true regarding relationships.  When we fall victim to wishful thinking while dating we set ourselves up for disappointment – or for entering relationships that are doomed from the start.  Illusions happen when we hold to beliefs like “He’ll change after he moves in with me.”  Seeing the world the way we would like it to be rather than the way it truly is means that we’re living in fantasyland.  This is not a place where relationships flourish; it’s a place where suffering flourishes.

We often live in a land of illusions regarding our families of origin.  We’re particularly vulnerable here because these relationships mean so much to us – or at least they did when we were young.  If you were raised to be respectful to your homophobic parents, it can be disorienting to grow into adulthood as a  gay man and find yourself conflicted about standing up to their irrational expectations.

We often speak of disillusionment as if it always meant disappointment.  When we start a new relationship, we are enchanted – it’s as if we are literally under the spell of our new boyfriend.  We don’t see faults, we see only what excites and delights us.  That’s a lot of fun, but a relationship that’s built on not paying attention to the totality of a person isn’t going to survive.  Becoming disenchanted can mean leaving behind the magical thinking that comes with trying to live in fantasyland.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Successful dating and meaningful relationships require reality testing.  We keep our eyes and hearts open for new information.  We are willing to let go of illusions, including the illusion of perfection, because in the long run our happiness depends on keeping our feet on the ground.

It’s often bittersweet to let go of illusions, and the death of some illusions may require almost as much mourning as the death of someone physically present in our lives.  But an end to suffering and opening ourselves to true happiness requires us to let go of attachment to fantasy and to be willing to accept reality.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.