Welcome reality checks

Do you remember those situations when you were in a dark room and had to grope your way through it, only vaguely sensing where you are, perhaps not even really knowing the right way? And have you noticed how weird it feels when you suddenly realize that you are much closer to the wall than you have assumed for some time? The sudden reality check has an irritating quality, and perhaps that's why we have a slight dislike for it, although it actually is helpful in getting us closer to our goal.

Perhaps you were surprised (I certainly was), when you started reflecting systematically, how quickly and how frequently we can get out of touch with the actual facts in the world. It can happen in many ways: we can fall for foolish hopes and opinions; what we take in about our situation can be colored by false emotions (such as anger and fear); and the ever going autopilot drives us along a path that may have been right once, but isn't so anymore (hasn't been for a while). And here, too, there are reality checks. You can avoid some of them, but not many, and not for a long time.

Why should it be so important to keep connected to reality in what we do, think or feel? Couldn't it be, quite to the contrary, that a few little deceptions would rather help and encourage us, leave us feeling happier, making it easier in general to decide how to act and what to believe? True, we'd go wrong from time to time, but that may be little price to pay for a generally more pervasive (albeit misguided) positive feeling.

Possibly; but it's not principally the balance of pleasure over pain that makes a life good. A life should have a coherent structure, a goal and direction, one or more threads that run through it and hold it all together. There are always more important things to consider than just how you feel at some given moment. And running out of sync with reality puts that life story at a severe risk, not least because it damages your character. Also, accepting delusion in yourself (because it makes it easier for you) would imply that it may be right, under some circumstances, to delude others as well, in order to make it easier for them, to spare them the little nasty tickle of confrontation with reality. And both when you're doing that to yourself and when you're doing it to others, the distancing from reality has a self-reinforcing effect — one lie breeds other lies, one foolish hope leads to another, and giving false emotions free reign only makes them stronger and increases our proclivities to get entangled in them. So we should welcome, even seek out reality checks in what we are doing: a life out of touch with reality is not worth living. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.