There is quite a lot of talk lately about disillusioned youth. From the outside they look less disillusioned and more delusional. Perhaps there is no difference.
When you’re disillusioned, you’re wiser but not necessarily happier: you’ve learned from experience that life isn’t always how you’d like it to be. Getting divorced could leave you disillusioned about marriage and love. Finding out a teacher cheated could leave you disillusioned about education. We all are disillusioned at some point, and it’s usually a bit depressing. Often, ignorance really is bliss.
Delusional comes from a Latin word meaning “deceiving.” So delusional thinking is kind of like deceiving yourself by believing outrageous things. Delusional thoughts are often a sign of mental illness, but the word can also be used more loosely to describe behavior that is just not realistic. If your friend thinks he’s going to get rich playing video games, he’s probably not mentally ill, but it’s not a stretch to call him delusional.
Disillusioned requires an expectation and an experience , while delusion can get along all by itself. The disillusioned delusion is when you have strong feelings about something you have not experienced. That is where racist, sexist and other “ists” arise. We hold a deceptive belief with no experience.
Societal disillusion arises in part because the people are fed delusions:
People think and act on what they believe to be true. They will act in strange ways when their beliefs fail to match reality. Politicians, civil servants, union leaders, parents, teachers and the media have a duty to supply objective information. Spin, like speed, kills. It is a form of lying.
The only way to deal with bad information is to supply good information. Pay attention to communication. The sender of the message is always and only responsible for its content and what it conveys to the recipient. Senders must become more aware and more ethical.
Forget truthy. Good information does not require spin, just objective assessment by the recipient within their ability and experience. Both of which should have conditioned the message.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.