Sunday, October 21, 2012

Becoming disillusioned

As young adults, I think most of us start out with a certain number of illusions.  We have ideas about the world and our place in it.  Those with the most ambition seem to have the most illusions.  Many intelligent, talented emerging adults have been praised and lauded throughout their lives for their talents and abilities.  They are told they can do or be anything if they apply themselves diligently. 

And so they graduate high school and set off to take on the world with a head full of dreams.  Most are optimistic about their futures.  If asked, they would probably say that they have an important contribution to make to the world, that they are destined for greatness, or that they are going to do big things.

After spending some time in the "real world," many of these once hopeful young adults enter a period of disillusionment.  They may encounter a world that is not receptive to the kind of big changes they'd envisioned themselves making.  Their power (and thus their ability to enact change) may be limited by virtue of their youth and inexperience.  They may lack the resources, the venue, or the support to achieve the great things they were once certain they would accomplish.  Or they may find the demands of adulthood consume all their time and energy, leaving precious little to devote to pursuing their dreams.

For me, disillusionment came soon after I started my first job after college.  Looking back, I can't even recall what I hoped to do with my life.  I just know I envisioned myself making a big impact on the lives of a lot of people.  I had a lot of ideas that I initially pursued with vigor.  Soon after college, I begn completing the requirements for certification in biofeedback.  I proposed a research project at my place of employment and got the go-ahead from my boss to start doing the background literature review.  I started working towards formal licensure as a clinical social worker in the state of Virginia.  I did a project on the side for a woman who ran a small non-profit focused on suicide prevention. 

And then I hit a brick wall.  I had to put the biofeedback certification process on hold because I couldn't afford to pay for the supervision.  I finished my literature review and reported my findings.  I was told there was no way to implement the study because it would require (at minimum) one additional staff member and the organization wasn't going to pay for that.  (That didn't stop them from going out to other organizations and telling them we were offering the program, even though we weren't).  The person providing supervision for Virginia licensure told me she was too busy and couldn't do it anymore.  The non-profit lady used my work for her presentation; I never heard from her again after that. 

There were other things too, but you get the point.  I was depressed.  I grew cynical.  I hated my job.  I decided I'd chosen the wrong career field.  I was completely disillusioned.

In the end I found my peace.  In the process, I discovered a lot about myself.  I also grew up.  I learned how to function in the world as it is, not how I want it to be. It was difficult, but I think it was also necessary.  Before you can cope with reality you have to accept it as it is, even if you don't necessarily like it.


  1. How many of your clients have disillusionment as the main root of their depression?

  2. Actually, quite a lot. I work with a lot of military members. They often talk about how the military isn't what they thought it would be or that they just don't believe in the mission anymore.

  3. Im in the Military and have recently become very disillusioned with my work and life. Any recommended reads?


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