Why I’m done with disillusionment

I’ve recently checked myself into rehab, but it’s not what you think. It’s not drink or drugs. It’s another dreaded ‘D’ word. Disillusionment. Over the years I’ve found it very easy to fall into this state and, although I’m getting better, I’m still prone to it. And it’s just not helpful. Disillusionment feeds on disillusionment. It’s a hole into which you dig yourself. What do you do when you’re in a hole? Stop digging.

The disillusionment trap

I think all of us have fallen into disillusionment to some degree in our early adult life. Some of us, sadly, have probably not really come out of it again. It’s a well-known scenario which you probably recognise (if not in yourself, then certainly in a friend). “Boohoo”, you or your friend say. “The future isn’t quite what I thought it would be. Everyone told me ‘You can be anything you want to be’. But now I’m not what I want to be and the world’s crap.”

I’ve almost certainly said and definitely thought words to this effect at different points. But where does this get you? This attitude is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard, i.e. not very useful at all. And this attitude is also just plain wrong: we are not disillusioned because the world is crap. We are disillusioned because of how we ourselves interact with and think about the world. But we can change this. So that’s why I’m in rehab.

So, what does Disillusionment Rehab look like?

Sadly it’s not a sort of spa resort-cum-clinic that celebrities go to. It’s far less luxurious and elaborate, but, it is free — like all the best things in life. The programme of treatment consists of the following:

  • Gratitude — Rather than railing against what I don’t like, I’m now singling out and being grateful for what I do like. It may be something as simple as a stranger smiling at me or a nice, hot meal. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been amazed at how powerful stopping for a second and noting that I am grateful can be. The change in mood is marked. I’m also noting in a diary at the end of the day three things for which I’m particularly grateful. This has the added benefit of encouraging me to seek things out for which I am grateful during the day.
  • Helping others — It’s hard to feel disillusioned when you’re helping other people. It can be as simple as picking up a toy which a child has thrown out of their pram or holding the door for someone else, at least to begin with. I volunteer for a homeless charity on a fortnightly basis, which is not a massive commitment, but seeing the gratitude of the people you meet puts to shame any sense of disillusionment you may have.
  • Changing perceptions — We all believe what we want to believe. Perception is the only reality. So whatever is real for us is whatever we have chosen to believe. Disillusionment is simply the transition from a positive set of beliefs about the world to a negative one. In short, it’s all in our heads. I have actually gone as far as to write down what I want to believe and how I want to act as a result of these beliefs. I check this every morning as a reminder. This cements these beliefs more and more into my brain each day.

This has been a very successful experiment for me and I will definitely be continuing it for a long time. The beauty of it is it’s easy to do and free. I challenge you to try at least one of the approaches above this week. So, which will it be? Let me know in the comments.

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