Sometimes when we are struck speechless by strong emotion, we are rescued by a chorus or refrain from a song. Somehow, from somewhere, a melody pops into our heads with lyrics so perfectly befitting our current circumstance, it’s impossible not to think the song was written for this precise moment.
Such was my situation recently. Earlier this week I was confronted with the startling realization that someone dear to me, a friend I have known for almost 60 years, betrayed me. The moment that lightbulb went off, I was so awestruck with the deceit that my frozen mind dug up a distant memory from Sir Elton John:
Holy Moses, I have been deceived.
Why? I kept asking myself but could not discern a single reason for her duplicity. Through my hours of anger vacillating with hurt, I kept reminding myself of the past generosity and steadfast friendship this person has shown me for which I will be forever grateful. Yet, the devastating blow to my center that left me without words also stole my faith and trust.
What does my experience have to do with suspension of disbelief, you may be asking.
In a previous email, I asked you to consider how you would like the world to look. To give you free reign to make changes, I suggested that you “suspend disbelief” and take the same viewpoint you assume when reading fiction or watching a movie. That you allow yourself to temporarily suspend what you believe to be true and entertain alternative scenarios that might fall outside of what you believe possible.
Why do we need suspension of disbelief? Because it’s human nature to be so attached to our beliefs that we discard any possibility that doesn’t fit or match. It’s easy to do with fiction or movies because we know it’s imaginary, and thus it’s safe to accept an unlikely situation or even the shifting of conventional paradigms.
But what about real-life situations? So strong was my belief in my friend’s loyalty that evidence of betrayal was unfathomable at first; hence, the speechlessness and subsequent feeling that a rug had been abruptly pulled from under my feet.
It was an uncomfortable, unpleasant experience and one I would have done anything to avoid.
And I think that’s exactly what happened. I did have earlier hints that something was going on, but I chose to ignore them because believing it could be possible threatened not only our friendship, but my belief in what friendship means. And when it was no longer possible to deny the truth of the matter, it knocked the wind out of me.
And isn’t that the way we view the world? We grow to accept certain viewpoints, institutions, and cultural norms as true, finite, and immutable. Nothing outside those parameters falls into the spectrum of possibility. Our acceptance of the belief system provides such comfort and security, we immediately dismiss any challenges to the paradigm we’ve accepted—because any challenge to what we accept as true will likely bring discomfort and pain. It’s much easier to deny the possibility.
Yet none of us are served by avoidance and denial. If the contradiction to our belief exists (which it invariably will in some way or manner), wouldn’t it better to be prepared for the possibility that not everything and everyone fits a perfect mold? Wouldn’t it be better to consider another way of looking at the situation—just in case there was some validity in an opposing viewpoint?
Suspension of disbelief is as useful in real life as it is with fiction. All beliefs are merely accepted thoughts and ideas. Suspension of disbelief allows you to temporarily set aside what you accept as true and examine a new idea.
Think of it like trying on different shoes to see which one looks best with that new outfit. Sometimes you put on one of each pair to compare in front of a mirror, right? Maybe you even discard both for a third pair. It’s possible.
A new way of thinking doesn’t necessarily mean you have to discard everything you thought before, any more than you’d throw out the pair of shoes you decide against. Those other shoes will likely prove useful and perfect on another day.
Same with beliefs. Most times there’s value in the original idea. It might only need tweaking or updating (like adding a fashion accessory). Sometimes, however, it is necessary to start from scratch. Maybe it’s not the shoes that are wrong, maybe it’s the outfit. Perhaps the clothes are not the “real you,” despite what the salesperson said. Or maybe that outfit doesn’t fit as well as you may have originally thought.
Perhaps we were sold a bill of goods about what would serve us best in government, education, family life, or career choice. Think about it. You, too, might also suddenly start singing, Holy Moses, I have been deceived.
Even though there’s a powerful sting, like I felt in the situation with my friend, it’s temporary. Once we get over the shock of being duped, we realize that we played a part in the deception with our spoken or unspoken agreement to comply. Complaining about unwanted outcomes doesn’t count as change. Only action—even as small as deciding not to follow the mainstream idea—can accomplish change or at least get it in motion.
Sometimes we can resolve the differences with discussion, which is what I hope will be the future outcome in my present situation. Sometimes we must walk away or forge a new path in a different direction—and be okay with that.
I’m taking time for reflection, reevaluation, and healing before making any decisions on how to proceed with my friend. No person or thing should be judged for one action or event alone. I pride myself on being a “big picture” person—someone who can step back and see the forest, not just the trees.
But it all begins with introspection and a bit of imagination, which brings me back to the original post, Suspending (Dis)Belief, Part 1.
When I asked you to envision the world as you would like, I also promised to share my vision. I’m still working on that. It is a larger project than I first imagined and may turn into a series rather than a one-time follow-up to the original post. And I sense it’s necessary for me to have a firm grasp on the whole thing before releasing the parts.
In addition to the events of this roller coaster called Life, I am completing my final project for the yearlong intuitive studies program I’m enrolled in, and my family is coming in for a Lieber Family Reunion in two weeks.
I’m also approaching the two-year anniversary of Shelley Writes and planning some change of format and focus.
For these reasons, you may find communication from me rather sporadic this month…I’ll do my best to stay in touch weekly, but I suspect that won’t happen the week my family is in town. But, come May, it’s a new day, a new month, and a new way. Yay!
Thank you, dear readers, for your patience and support. Please do take some time in these next weeks to suspend disbelief and mental limitations and design the world you believe serves the highest good of all. Just thinking lovely thoughts that please you will improve the energy we’re all marinating in, so only good can come from this exercise.
And there’s no better time to engage in this type of thinking. This week marks several religious holidays, observance of which tends to be an opportunity for spiritual reflection and growth. Think big and share your vision!
Until next time…My best, Shelley