Illusion and DisillusionmentILLUSION AND DISILLUSIONMENT:
Core Issues in Psychotherapy

August 1999 (hardcover)
Jason Aronson Press
ISBN 0-7657-0219-3

February 2007 (paperback)
Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN 0-765-70517-6

Order from Rowman & Littlefield



The realization that one is a relatively vulnerable organism in a complicated world where others are not always welcoming is a disillusioning experience that replaces earlier illusions about one's specialness.  As the child advances developmentally, as a result of the pressure of reality awareness, he must also mourn the loss of his earlier innocence and obliviousness to the more frightening aspects of his existence in the world.  It is difficult to relinquish the satisfaction of the earlier, more blissful era, and, while one moves forward, there is also a corresponding pull toward recapturing the secure feeling of the past.

...Many individuals go through life with a yearning to recapture what they imagine to have been a more blissful era in which they felt that their needs were exquisitely taken care of.  Whether or not this state truly existed, these individuals react as if they have lost something essential to their happiness, and they pursue the illusion of finding the perfect relationship in which their needs, wishes, and desires will be fully met.  It is as if they are driven by a sense of a paradise lost and a quest to restore the equilibrium that corresponded to their feeling status prior to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

...Thus, the ability to mourn the loss of paradise is a necessary and recurrent developmental milestone.  Under the influence of the reality principle most individuals are able to gradually mourn the loss of their illusions and move on.  The task at hand, as with any experience of mourning, is to recognize the loss, deal with the pain, and gradually come to terms with the new reality.

...Narcissistic pathology can be expressed in many directions.  Self-absorption and obliviousness and insensitivity toward others may be one form.  Seeking acknowledgment and validation from others to an excessive degree in order to bolster self-esteem is another pattern.  Relating to others on the level of need gratification without reciprocity is yet another prototype.  In assessing the different types of narcissistic engagement, it is useful to consider the experience of self in relation to an object.  In narcissism the self appears to be characteristically overvalued while the object is undervalued in his/her own right.  Narcissistic individuals tend to be fixated at the need gratification stage of development, either as a function of deprivation or overindulgence, and therefore, their object relatedness is tinged with a lack of mutuality.  They operate under the illusion that "the world owes me a loving," and they may search perpetually for a primary caregiver who will serve their needs in an all-giving way and require nothing in return.

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