Realities and Illusions

This past month I’ve come across five quotes with similar themes.  I’d like to share them with you and ask you to seriously think about what they might mean to you.

It is faith which moves mountains because it gives the illusion that mountains move… Illusion is perhaps the only reality in life.

The truth deserves a bodyguard of lies.

Those are my principles and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.

Much of what we deal with in counseling has to do with discriminating between reality and illusion, and our wishes about what could be or should be.  This is particularly true when working with couples because the relationship is influenced by what’s in the recesses of each person’s private thoughts, their fantasies, and what their personal history has taught them to believe about themselves.

We (and our relationships) are often limited by who we believe ourselves to be.  Sometimes we simply prefer our own descriptions of personal reality. But those beliefs can be walls barring future growth.

I believe God created us to seek more deeply and to go beyond our walls, self-deceptions and illusions of what seems to be.  The quotes above have a certain cynical wisdom to them in that they suggest we prefer not to know the truth.

That thought is captured best in my fourth quote from Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Nathan Jessep, in A Few Good Men. In his famous courtroom speech he said “You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls.”

Of course, Jessep was right.  Those walls may be our own illusions, which protect us as surely as Jessep self-righteously thought he was doing.  These quotes speak a limited truth, though.

Walls, illusions, and self-deceptions confine us as well as protect us.  History seems to show that walls or defenses can go up, sometimes for very, very good reasons. But, in safer times we must tear them down, in order to grow freedom within and between others.  Bringing down walls requires courage and strength of heart.  Realities can and do change.  We can protect ourselves not only with self-perpetuating lies, illusions, and endless adaptations of principle, but also with our truth and with our dreams.

A last quote:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Were you wondering who we were quoting?   The first quote is from Benito Mussolini.  The second, from Winston Churchill.  The third, from that cynical observer of the human condition, Groucho Marx.  And lastly, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Relationships In A Democracy

Recently we all celebrated the 4th of July in our own ways with family and friends.  Some of us spent time outside in our yards or at public festivals such as Naperville’s Ribfest while some opted to stay out of the sizzling heat and celebrate indoors!  Each year we celebrate Independence Day and hopefully reflect on what it takes to maintain our freedoms and show respect to those who protect them.

A few years ago I realized that marriage, a partnership between men and women as equals, comes out of the very democratic culture we celebrate on Independence Day.  After all, American democracy is about equality.  It’s about relationships and our obligations to others who are equal to us.   In America I have the right to free speech, even with my wife, but I also have the obligation to listen to her, to even actually consider what she is saying.  And she has the same rights and obligations. That’s the American Way.

So many couples I see are failing to speak to each other in ways that the other has the potential to hear.  If only they were willing to open up their ears to listen to their partner as an equal.  As a counselor in the true sense of that word, to give counsel, I’m obligated to seek to understand the stuck structure of a relationship and the repetitive, hurtful ways couples relate to one another.  But from there, we find another more useful structure to help partners feel again like equals pursuing happiness with each other.

With the above in mind, I would like to offer an adaptation of an essential section of the Declaration of Independence for American couples:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights amongst couples, marriage was instituted for couples, deriving their just powers from the consent of those who chose one another; that whenever any form of partnership becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of either partner to alter or abolish it and to institute a renewed partnership, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that partnerships long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.

Our American sense of relationships between equals, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, extends into the intimacy of our lives with each other.  When that happens the fireworks are awesome.