Illusionment and Disillusionment: Foundational Illusions and the Loss of a World
One can only be disillusioned if once one lived within illusions—and so disillusionment is always after the fact (après coup or nachträglich), as illusions come into view even as they are crumbling within. With a crisis of disillusionment—or existential disillusionment—one falls away from a coherence of meaning, revealing a system of intertwined fundamental illusions that had always been lived within and implicit, part of one’s being-in-the-world, and that now seem broken, strange, and uncanny. This way of being that one recognizes only retrospectively may be called “illusionment,” a state of being apprehended in the very process of its falling apart. That is, prior to disillusionment, there may not have been an illusion as such; rather, there was some overall effective-enough, taken-for-granted coherence, an experience of world and being that now comes into view and seems broken precisely because it no longer holds together. For example, a sense of a common “we” might be revealed to be so flawed as to have been a fiction, a fantasy, a set of pervasive, interwoven illusions that one had once naively lived within as unquestioned beliefs. Severe disillusionment, then, carries with it a sense of falling out of the once taken-for-granted world, undermining a sense of solid existential grounding. Saturating all aspects of the psyche, traumatizing disillusionments may lead to a lifelong cascade of après coup attempts to find new grounding in how to live, as one attempts to repair this world-broken-ness.
Link to Online Publication (fulltext can be downloaded in the library).
Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 66/2: 289–303, 2018.
About the Author:
Alfred Margulies is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and a faculty member at the Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, the Cambridge Health Alliance.
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