I took a wonderful philosophy course not too long ago. My professor posed this question to the class: “What is reality?”
Ancient Greek philosophy began with that question. The philosophers of that time had their theories. Some believed that air, water or fire were some of the few provable realities. According to Plato (known today as one of the greatest philosophers of all time) there is a huge difference between APPEARANCE and REALITY. Although Plato admitted it’s natural to assume that what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel is reality, the reality about reality is this: Sometimes our senses are not able to make sense of reality at all!
As a result, we can do ourselves a favor by recognizing there’s a chance that what we perceive as realities in our life, might actually be mere illusions.
Take psychological illness for example. Specifically, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). According to Cognitive Behavioral Psychology of New York, “BDD is characterized by an obsessive concern over a perceived flaw in bodily appearance. The flaw may be imaginary or very minor, but the patient believes it to be major and experiences intense distress and anxiety.”
This unfortunate illness causes the affected person to not be able to clearly see what they truly look like. A person with BDD — who is truly objectively slim –might view themselves as heavy — resulting in devastating consequences, like an eating disorder.
Another example of illusion may be found in almost any glossy fashion magazine, where photos are frequently digitally manipulated. Can you say Photoshop? Unfortunately these glamorous photoshopped illusions can also have devastating consequences – becoming further fodder for contributing to the sad realities of BDD and eating disorders.
Basically, although illusions aren’t real, they can have a very real impact on our lives.
Take a moment right now to think about a time when one of your perceptions later turned out not to be a reality. Perhaps you perceived someone’s words as mean – but in reality those words turned out to be an innocent comment spoken with good intentions. Or, maybe you remember a time when you passed judgment on someone or some group because you perceived them as undesirable. But in reality, your judgments of that person or group were completely false.
Joe Walsh wrote a song on this theme called, Life of Illusion: “Sometimes I can’t help the feeling that I’m living a life of illusion. And oh, why can’t we let it be and see through this hole in this wall of confusion. I just can’t help the feeling I’m living a life of illusion.”
My most memorable “life illusion” happened when I lost my job because I would not look the other way when I knew my employer was doing wrong. My personal code of ethics forced me to leave. Even though I knew holding true to my integrity was the right thing to do, after I left, my perceptions became distorted. I began to second-guess myself. To me, no job meant no value. I became depressed. I believed that I was a failure. I believed that life was meaningless. I believed that everyone was against me. I believed that I had nothing to offer this world. All illusions, illusions, illusions! In reality, something better was being created for me during this time. The loss of this job led me in the direction of another job – my dream job!
Yes, what I had thought was an unfortunate ending in my life was merely the illusion of an ending. It was in reality a far better beginning. Today, I love my job – and my reality is sweet! And that’s a fact as real as air, fire or water!
by Sandra Galati
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
Live your happiest life. Get my research-based happiness newsletter delivered conveniently to your inbox.