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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Ideal-World vs. Real-World


I once had a friend who nicknamed me “Hatter,” often referred to as “Mad Hatter,” after the fictional character in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In turn, I gave my friend the moniker “Alice.”


We used to have lengthy conversations about many topics, as no subject matter was deemed off-limits. Alice stated that the perspective I generally offered wasn’t similar to what other people in her life used, so it initially appeared as though I used rhetorical nonsense in my responses.


I miss those discussions with Alice. Nevertheless, I remain grateful for having been afforded the opportunity to challenge her worldview. In particular, I was apparently successful at investigating why she believed in an ideal-world perspective versus a real-world interpretation.


According to one source, “The ideal world is defined as an idealized society, environment or situation in the mind of an individual or group, pursuing the idea of a state of perfection. On the other hand, the real world refers to the actual situations we experience and face in our lives.”


Alice daydreamt of how things should, must, or ought to have been, whereas I valued truth and reality. At times, she would disturb herself with irrational beliefs about my worldview. However, I’d encourage Alice to test her misguided hypotheses using the scientific method – a process arguably used to balance rationalism and empiricism.


Regarding this matter, one source states that rationalism posits that “reason is superior to sense experience as a source of knowledge” while empiricism suggests that “knowledge can only be gained, if at all, by experience.” I don’t assume a dichotomous position regarding this matter.


Without boring the reader with my perspective on Cartesian and Lockean views, I maintain that the function of science assists in the process of attaining knowledge, fostering wisdom, and promoting understanding. As such, it favors a real-world perspective in balance with that of an ideal-world view.  


All the same, many ideal-world points of view are irrational and have little value to me. Humorously, Alice highly regarded idealism and would often attempt to persuade me concerning her positions. About such behavior, one source states:


Most of us would agree that an ideal world is a place where everyone can live in peace and harmony; a place where there is no poverty or hunger, and where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question as it is, at least to some degree, a matter of personal opinion.


Alice had her utopic demands and I rejected the idealistic fantasies she proposed. Nonetheless, I’ve used irrational ideal-world preferences throughout my life, a number with which I suspect Alice would disagree.


Regarding ideal-world desires, a mutual friend of Alice and I once told me something to the effect of, “I just want people to be nice to one another – just be good people.” This is an impossible standard to achieve, because it’s likely never how real-world function ever was or will ever be.


From a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective, I see nothing inherently good, bad, right, wrong, healthy, or unhealthy concerning idealistic preferences expressed by Alice or our mutual friend. It’s irrational, no doubt, though not holy or evil.


Still, when people maintain rigid demands versus hopeful choices, they will likely disturb themselves into unpleasant conditions. For example, merely expressing hope for people to be nice to one another and behave as good people perceivably do is representative of a preference.


If or when this desire isn’t met, one may be disappointed though not miserable. However, if an individual inflexibly demands that others be nice and good – and when people with differing values inevitably reject this dogmatic commandment – then the person using rigidity will typically experience unpleasant consequences of the irrational demand.


Thankfully, Alice and I were able to enjoy playful banter with one another while foregoing inelasticity concerning our perspectives – even though she sometimes disturbed herself. Although she tended to value ideal-world viewpoints, she eventually tolerated and accepted my real-world outlook.


Ironically, the actual Hatter once stated, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”


Increasingly, the world reflects that of a Wonderland scenario in which nonsense serves as the primary function of existence. Or, perhaps it’s always been this way and I’ve been too distracted with keeping my head than to have noticed.


In any case, I appreciate the ability to discuss idealism versus realism. Likewise, I value friendships in which differing perspectives are encouraged, even if some points of view are undeniably absurd.


Moreover, I’m honored to work with clients who are willing to challenge their personal philosophies so that they may adopt more effective new beliefs which better serve their interests and goals. If you would like to know more about the REBT concepts expressed herein, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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