Tuesday, November 8, 2011



Freud was famous or infamous (depending on how one chooses to look at it) for saying that his job was not to make people happy but instead to get them rid of their illusions.

Whether we dare to acknowledge it or not, the fact is that we all fall victim to a large number of illusions some of which we begrudgetly acknowledge and rationalize while others we are totally blind to.

Our brain is “hard wired” by evolution to be prone to illusions. Many of these illusions have been sanctioned, reinforced and promulgated by societies and religions from one generation to another through time immemorial. It is an indisputable fact that many of these illusions have helped us survive as a species and flourish. On the other hand, it is also equally and painfully indisputable that a number of these illusions have led to massive injustices and genocides (race, IQ, gender, religion just to mention a few).

Science has managed and continues to unravel many of the dangerous illusions while others continue to defy proof and logic in most stubborn ways. The latter include: Beliefs in the accuracy of memory and the infallibility of eye witnesses, our convictions that we are too smart to be manipulated, that we always have free will and choice, that we know a lot more about events and people than we really do, the belief that our personal moral code is or should be a universal dictate and I am afraid a lot more. Based on these illusions we make decisions about who to marry, who is innocent and who is guilty, when to terminate a relationship or marriage, who to vote for, when to go to war, the way to rear our children and many other decisions from the smallest to the largest.

Now, I am not saying all this because I woke up in a bad mood this morning and decided to spoil every one else’s day too. I am saying it because I believe that with a bit of knowledge and a good deal of courage we can rid ourselves of dangerous illusions. Therapy goes a long way in opening peoples’ minds and so do science and education.
What prompted me to write this blog today is a book that I just finished reading: “The Invisible Gorilla and other ways our illusions deceive us”. It was illuminating and in many ways shocking. I highly recommend it to all brave souls out there who wish to free themselves from the fetters of illusions and/or misguided assumptions.