Two Illusions That Spoil Reality
Bill Cottringer

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” ~Søren Kierkegaard.

There are two persistent and compelling illusions that help spoil Kierkegaard’s version of reality. These are: (1) the strongly sensed separation between “us,” as a distinct existence itself, from the rest of life, and (2) time. Let’s try to understand how these two popular illusions occurred through our evolving divided mind. Our minds first start noticing important differences within the primary hierarchy of nature. Minerals were seen as only having what we called “existence.” Then plants grew with what we named “life.” After that animals were born and added “consciousness” to the plant’s life and mineral’s existence. Finally human beings appeared with all these three qualities, plus the addition of what is viewed as “self-consciousness.”

Ironically, it is this distinct human attribute of self-consciousness that represents both the curse and the cure in experiencing life with less pain and suffering from trying to solve problems and resolving the three main conflicts challenging us all—us vs. life, us vs, others, and us vs. ourselves. The same self-consciousness creates the two great illusions that spoil life—the existence of our separate self and time as real pre-existing things. These two illusions impede progress in our pursuit of knowledge and virtue to become our best selves, with enough happiness, contentment, and peace of mind to allow us to experience life without judging the experiences as problems to solve or conflicts to resolve.

As our self-consciousness buried the belief of our separate existence deeply into our conscious minds, our minds started becoming more divided in separating everything into this and that yin and yang’s, and then added another dividing level of judgment into more opposing qualities such as good or bad, true or false, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, pleasure or pain, something or nothing, and so on. Eventually, everything had its own individual opposite and even every opposite had its own individual opposite quality. The end result is the harshly divided world we see today that everyone senses, but nobody has a clue as to what to do to make things better.

Healing this painful divide requires putting our sense of separation and time in their right places—back into reality to experience without judgment. This requires focusing on commonalities to bridge the gap in the divide, rather than paying too much attention to differences that just widen the gap.

There are three wisdoms that can help join our divided minds and heal the divide:

• The Wisdom of Knowing.
• The Wisdom of Insecurity.
• The Wisdom of Acceptance.


One sure way of true knowing starts by understanding the immense value of humbly acknowledging how much we don’t know compared to how much we can learn. Added to this challenge, we must understand that there is another thing increasing the empty spaces of not knowing. This is the reality that all we think we know really isn’t so. Faulty beliefs are part of Mark Twain’s imagination (quote below) that can beat reality, so the challenge then becomes correcting the individual faults making up the faulty belief. The requires honestly admitting what we don’t know so that we can learn what we need to know to be more successful.


Another path to true knowing is in understanding that everything we use to hide our insecurities and vulnerabilities, from religion to university degrees, is a temporary security blanket that we eventually discover doesn’t really do the job as intended. Traces of our insecurities and vulnerabilities will always be uncovered sooner or later. Just acknowledging the problem such as our own feelings of insecurity and vulnerability, helps decrease their stranglehold on our growth and thriving potential. This admission can be very liberating from thinking we must carry this unnecessary burden.


The third door to true knowing is learning the art of acceptance, especially accepting the impossibility of accepting the unacceptable such as violence, abuse, disablement, exclusion, oppression, and other such destructive, harmful behaviors. Realizing there is no real “you” to try and do the impossible, within the perceived time that doesn’t really exist, makes this all much easier. Since there is no real past or future, all you have to do is focus single mindfulness on the present moment to notice what the divided mind has failed to notice all along. Some problems need to be understood better before they can be solved and at the end of the day, some problems don’t even need to be solved.

“Reality is that part of the imagination we all agree on.” ~Unknown Author. But “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” ~Mark Twain.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, but still practices sport psychology, business success coaching, photography, and writing, living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Because Organization, an intervention program in human trafficking. Bill is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Critical Thinking (Authorsden); Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.). Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away and Christian Psychology for Everyday Use (Covenant Books, Inc.). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or