Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

The Shattering of Illusions

There are certain events that happen in our lives that have profound effects. In an instant you are changed forever and the world looks completely different. Many of these events happen very early in life as we lose our innocence, as our illusions are shattered.

When I was twelve I was playing a minor part in our school play, A Midsummers Night Dream. Alright then, at the risk of immense ridicule Ill tell you my role: I was one of the fairies. These things happen when you are 12 and in the first year of secondary school and right at the bottom of the food chain. Anyhow, Puck was played by a sixth form girl. She was just gorgeous and I was madly in love. I was so stricken that I couldnt speak to her at all and avoided all social contact whatsoever. A bit counterproductive I guess but I dread to imagine what would have happened had I tried to stammer small talk to this vision of loveliness. Id have probably been psychologically scarred for life.

We were rehearsing in the school library one afternoon after work. There is a scene where the fairies are gathered together in a clearing in the forest and Puck arrives suddenly by leaping out of a tree into the circle of anxious and amazed faces. To simulate this, Puck, my goddess, jumped off a table into our midst. Perhaps she had had beans for lunch or some very fizzy drink. As she landed and dropped into a crouch, the inevitable happened: she farted. Well, we were surprised all right and there was a sudden astonished silence. Then most of those in the library, including the starchy librarian who seemed to me to not have any smile muscles at all, just fell about laughing. Including Puck, which shocked me most of all.

Its hard to describe the amalgam of emotions I felt at that moment. Amusement was not one of them. I was completely stunned. I also experienced a deep embarrassment. It would be nice to think that the embarrassment was for her but I really think it was about me. All my illusions about feminine mystique, grace and lemon-scented purity were shattered in that momentary passing of flatus. Gone forever. Becoming a nurse later in my teens finished the job, ending any sense of awe about the human body at all.

We harbour lots of illusions in life. Some of them survive because they are never confronted either by events or challenged by ourselves in reflective moments. Others are disembowelled like mine by things completely out of our control. Some of my illusions have been that life will always be good, that I will always be happy, that bad things dont happen to good people, that I am bullet proof and that I will live forever. What are some of yours?

Its how we deal with the shattering of illusions that seems to matter most. When Puck passed wind I hid for a while from the world. Well, at least until Mum called out that tea was ready. Grieving makes you hungry and there are lots of other things happening in your world when you are twelve. I could have fought the illusion I guess and pretended that nothing had happened. But this would have been struggling against reality and left me open to more distress later. Perhaps more anxiety and sadness over and over again. Sometimes things are just the way they are.

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