The disillusionment phase

I had a realization the other day that I can sum up as the following: the older I get, the less I understand people.

In my younger years I smacked of that youthful optimism that all people who haven’t experienced the real world reek of. In my late teens and early twenties, I was basically ignorant–filled with preconceived notions and ideas fed to me by others. As time wore on and I experienced more, I encountered resistance. Relationships weren’t going the way that I thought they would. The values that I thought were there suddenly weren’t. The things that I had always been told about love and connecting with other people were rapidly losing traction.

This has all culminated with me entering a phase of my life I’ve called “the disillusionment phase.” I’d say that my naive optimism has been replaced by a healthy skepticism. People aren’t motivated by altruism or the virtuous forces of love–more often than not they’re motivated by self-interest, hedonism, or power. A lot of people will walk all over you if it helps further their agenda, whether it be at work or in a relationship. For that matter, “relationships” as I once thought of them in reality do not exist.

I don’t understand how someone can be in love with multiple people at once. I don’t understand how people can have sex with zero emotional attachment. I don’t understand how drugs can be a viable lifestyle. I don’t understand how people can value money over other human beings. I don’t understand how people can turn their back on science on evidence because it makes them face reality or feel uncomfortable. I don’t understand how pointing a finger and blaming someone became more important than finding the solution.

Everything that I thought was true is being categorically disproved the older I get. Turns out that loyalty and dedication DON’T make for a good relationship. Turns out that empathy is a weakness that others will exploit. Turns out that most people want to escape reality and not deal with their problems. Turns out that opinion matters more than fact. Turns out that lust is more important than love and physical appearance is more important than personality.

It’s not that I believe that there aren’t any good people out there. There are, I’ve met them. I’m friends with them. It’s just that the world and most of the people in it aren’t at all like I imagined them to be, for better and (more frequently) for worse.

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5 thoughts on “The disillusionment phase

  1. Hello!

    I’m experiencing quite the opposite.
    The transition from an early misanthrope to a sudden lover of humanity!

    I recognize our many shortcomings, yet try and see the hope in all of it.

    Stay well,
    Celma.

    1. I guess that did sound pretty hopeless in tone lol. I should clarify that I don’t let it interfere with the quality of my life. Like I said (albeit briefly) at the end, I know that good people still exist. There just aren’t as many of them as I initially thought. Just because I find humanity in general to be a huge disappointment doesn’t mean there aren’t any silver linings–it’s actually given me a lot of motivation to work on being happy with myself and finding happiness in solitude. Hmm…this is still sounding hopeless. Anyway, I appreciate your comment and your positivity! 🙂

  2. I remember learning in one of my ethics classes, that no matter what, nobody is motivated due to pure altruism. We are all motivated to do what we do based on self interest. A man gives $20 to a struggling family because the reward he gets is a personal feeling of doing good. Mother Theresa helped the poor in India because her actions she felt were pleasing to God and provided some assurance for herself that her afterlife would be secure. The most altruistic acts are at their core, self serving because the reward can be as simple as a good, happy feeling for helping someone out. That feeling in itself is a reward internally. Even though these acts are indeed “good” and beneficial for everyone involved, the internal motivations still come down to selfish reasoning. We cannot escape it, and you know what…. it’s OK.

    1. Excellent point. I suppose that I should have clarified that disillusionment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different. Sometimes it feels bad, but such is life, as the French would say. I guess more than anything it changes how I perceive my place in the world. But you’re right, that’s Ok. Self-interest doesn’t necessarily diminish the good that comes from altruism. I try not to automatically assume the worst in people or things. On the contrary, I like to think that I normally give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s just that now I’m more acutely aware of all the possible outcomes than I was before. A health amount of skepticism colors my world now.

  3. I feel like I should make it a point to say that the tone in this post was all wrong. I’m ultimately not arguing that there’s a problem with the world–rather there was a problem with ME. I was the one who had it all wrong, and the older I become the more I realize that.

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