I’ve been through it twice, so far, at intervals of about a decade. On both occasions the breaking of my reality had everything to do with two separate individuals and the complex webs of lies they created. And on both occasions, I fought hard to keep my reality whole, because the alternative always appears so insane, unstable and dangerous. Until you escape. Both times, in the end, I went through the trauma of unpicking all the things I thought I knew, reassessing everything, falling apart, and being able to rebuild. The first time, I rebuilt on a foundation of broken trust, the second time I think I’ve come out with a more nuanced sense of things.
There are few things more frightening than finding that your reality doesn’t work. However, when you think about it, so much of the reality we inhabit depends on trust. It depends on things we have all agreed are true, exist and can be used as points of reference. Language, countries and economies are all part of our belief system. There’s a process at the moment not unlike saying ‘The Emperor has no clothes on’ in which we’re collectively reassessing the value of money markets, wealth made out of fantasy, and considering that the uber-rich might not be all that good for the rest of us. Bloodless revolutions can be dramatic and uncomfortable too.
I wonder what it was like for the devout Christians of the Victorian era, having to deal with Darwin, and the possibility that their book might not represent literal truth. There are still those who just won’t look at the evidence and who hold to the belief, and their relationship with the rest of reality gets ever more strained and problematic. There must have been plenty for whom Darwin brought deep, personal crisis. We’re asked to do a lot of trusting – of governments, scientists, lawyers, big businesses, media and medics these days more often than religious folk, but it is no less a belief position that keeps it all chipping along. We depend on the realities other people help to make, and sometimes those are very faulty indeed.
Most of the UK is in drought, my bit is being battered by torrential rain. We’ve had years of less predictable and more problematic weather already, but we’re still reluctant to think about climate change. For everyone whose notion of reality depends on car, reliable water supplies, all the electricity you can dream of and the freedom to consume more than you can afford, climate change is madness. Going there, recognising it, would require of our culture something not unlike a nervous breakdown. It’s going to hurt like hell.
I have leaned, in my personal life, that no matter how familiar and established a fictional reality is, when you are dealing with lies and illusions, it just doesn’t work. The effort required to bend and re-shape things into other things, so that your dysfunctional reality holds together, is vast. Every piece of evidence that doesn’t fit has to be reinvented. Experiences that contradict, must be forgotten, feelings that go against the reality, must be crushed. It may seem that we can make the reality stick, and that no other reality is possible, but it catches up with us in the end. Either we can’t sustain the work involved in holding a faith position about things that blatantly aren’t true, or we get so far removed from the rest of the world that we can’t function. Collectively, climate change will do one or the other to us, unless we deal with it. I’d like to think it’s possible to change by reasoned, deliberate choice rather than in crisis.
In personal life, the breaking of reality was an awful experience, but the far side of it is a much better place. Things make sense again. Sensory evidence can be trusted, emotions taken into account. A greater sense of inner peace becomes possible.
I’m wondering if ‘Jayne’ will feel tempted to comment on this post. If she does, it could be to ask if I’ve realised that I have been living a lie for the last couple of years. ‘Jayne’ has tried on several occasions to assert this already, but unless I’m very much mistaken, she needs to. ‘Jayne’ slipped up over the Easter weekend and made a comment that took me from suspicion about the familiarity of her phrasing, through to a reasonable degree of confidence that I know who she is.
Assuming I’m right in my guess then ‘Jayne’s ‘ hostility is necessary for her. Based on what I think I know, her situation requires her to hold the belief that I am a cruel, vindictive, heartless sort of person. It has been necessary for some time that she reads the very worst imaginable things into anything I do or say and must, therefore, cherry pick the bits that can be tweaked support her world view. So she comes to the blog of someone she dislikes for something, anything, that reinforces her perspective. I wonder what she has to carefully ignore to make her world work. I wonder what she has to pretend to like or accept, what she has to suppress within herself, in order to get from one day to the next with her reality intact. It’s no way to live. I know, I’ve been there. I try not to be too hard on her. She frustrates me, but I feel very sorry for her, and I also know that merely my saying that will poke the flimsy foundations of her world. If I am nice to her, I will hurt her. You can’t help someone whose reality doesn’t work, without causing them a lot of distress.
Sometimes the best we can hope for anyone, is that the fabulous prison-castle construction made of lies and straw shows its true nature so that it can be kicked to pieces. The walls are mostly just air. You are free to leave. It’s good when that happens.