Article: The many shades of disillusionment

Employee Relations

The many shades of disillusionment

What is the threshold after which a disappointment becomes disillusionment? What are the ways in which we observe people around the deal with it?
The many shades of disillusionment

Enough conversations on tea, coffee and other sundry spirits with friends, acquaintances and strangers have revealed this to me this – everyone is a WID, which is ‘Work-In-Disillusionment’ (a rip off from WIP meaning work-in-progress). WID roughly means that just everyone around carries with him/herself a shade of disillusionment. There are only two spices that makes the dish of disillusionment different – first is the detail on whom, what, where and when; and second is to what degree. Anyone who says or believes that he/she is disillusionment-free must either be a liar or God. 

All literature about human pain and anguish is nothing but a chronicle of disillusionment. Everyone and everything to some or the other disillusions – it’s just a matter of time. People, relationships, institutions, systems, organizations, and in many cases, even nations – all. Sometimes early on, but eventually. Details might differ, timings might differ, circumstances might differ – but all of it appears to be hurtling towards the final inescapable eventuality. Everyone in this is trying to remain calm and composed, dealing with sometimes the dawn of disillusionment, sometimes the prospect of it. 

Now this narrative sounds very defeatist or pessimistic. Let me clarify. The intent is not to bemoan the issue of disillusionment per se, for there is no point in doing so but really dwell on two downstream issues – what is the threshold after which a disappointment becomes disillusionment, and the second is, what are the ways in which we observe people around deal with it. From the two possibly might emerge a better threshold, a better palliative – for a cure does not exist so far. 

People deal with illuminometer in various ways. Some are blissfully unaware of the machinations they are subjected to – they are the happiest. I feel they are blessed. The second are those who have attained a kind of ‘state of no expectations’ from anyone and anything. They are rare but they are also happy. The third are those who have concluded that if you are part of the game and you have been dealt a set of cards, you better play the game well. They will maneuver their self-interest and ambitions through the maze of influencers and the powerful. They get to their destination. They are also happy. The rest suffer – themselves and their circumstances. They may rationalize their inabilities, they may give it the cloak of high moral ground, or in rare circumstances, even the color of principles but they remain united in their misery.  

Some have a very low threshold of disillusionment. Even a small disappointment can make them sulk, lose faith and become bitter. They must do some soul searching. As they say profoundly – ‘the world is not here to serve you; it was here first’. They must realize that everyone is entitled to a bit of self-interest just as we are. In the pursuit of self-preservation, there will be times that others might have an upper hand, in what might appear as at the cost of you. Sometimes the system must take a decision that might not go your way. Learn to live with that. Improve your threshold. 

Disillusionment can be very draining; there is nothing more agonizing than keeping on playing the game you don't believe in

Disillusionment can be very draining. There is nothing more agonizing than keep playing the game you don’t believe in. Hence, they say, don’t sulk at the system you want to be a part of but do not have the courage or energy to change it. Leave the table, turn the table, get new cards, change the rules of the game or change playing squad if you must. Only then will the circumstances and hence the feelings change. People change nations, religions, partners, and organizations when that point comes. 

However, there is huge variation in the disillusionment of people. Two persons in similar circumstances do not suffer from similar degrees of disillusionment or similar onset of it. The answer then may not be in the circumstances but in individual response to circumstances – predictably like everything else. Some deal with the imperfections in people, the cracks in their personality and the anguish emerging out of rough edges in their behavior with either a spiritual maturity (which is a stance that people, circumstances and life is inherently imperfect and hence there is no point in haranguing about it) or a cultivated nonchalance (which is a stance what gives a damn to everyone else because one is so focused in his/her own journey). 

There is variation also in how people deal with the disillusionment that has already set in. Some come out of it early – shake off the dirt and move forward. Some take a while to come out of it – a few days of getting on. Yet many get sucked into the abyss of believing that nothing is worth their effort and energy and let the thread of inspired action slip from their fingers. They play and replay the narrative of disillusionment so many times that it becomes their absolute truth.

A final word on this. Disillusionment with people and systems is normal and natural to some degree. It almost is proof of being human. However, if we do feel the onset of it, we must quickly arrest it. Overcoming the tendency of getting disillusioned is the ultimate victory over a base human instinct. That is proof of being human again – and better proof, I guess.

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Topics: Employee Relations

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