illusion – (n) a false idea or belief
delusion – (n) an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder
Recently I had the opportunity to have my palm read by an alleged expert – a Colombian man nearing his mid-forties who had been reading palms since he was nine. He exuded warmth and humor, and when it came time for my reading he simply grabbed my palm and looked, uttering some noises that fell somewhere between thoughtful and surprised. He told me a number of things, but there is one statement from him that I keep returning to, namely because it inverted certain illusions, or maybe delusions, that I didn’t realize had been operating in me. Closely inspecting a certain line, he spoke at my palm – “Hmm. You are very independent. You don’t need anybody.” He said it with such conviction and clarity that I felt little need to put up a fight, even though it didn’t sound quite like me. He then put my hand down and spoke directly to me. “You think you need acceptance,” he said, seeming a bit lost in thought, “but you don’t.”
I find it difficult not to believe him. It certainly seems to me now that I had been seeking acceptance from people, and had rarely questioned that impulse. And most of those people I’d moved far away from when I came to New York - people that now I may see rarely, but we will more likely greet each other as friendly strangers than old friends. But what was really poignant about that experience was the lingering sense that I might be operating on a number of delusions – hopefully none of which are as self defeating, but apparently I can’t be too sure. Moreover, the thought of not seeking acceptance made me feel so liberated that I found myself gravitating toward that potential illusion over whatever it was that I’d previously believed.
I recently read an article in NPR that explores the ways in which sibling order defines personality. Upon discovering that my personality formed from trying to out do my sister for attention, or fill certain familial roles that needed filling to the same end, I felt similar to the way I had after my palm reading. My assumption that I was unique in my family due to some secret genes, or perhaps a secret adoption, shattered irreparably. The black-and-white differences between my sister and I, the ways that we spoke to and handled our parents – they clearly had developed due to the fact that we were pitted against each other for our parents love. I had no choice but to remain deluded or succumb to the fact that my previous assumptions had all been illusion.