Denial is Powerful
Denial influences us and the people surrounding us intensely and affect us more than we may think. Something that we can greatly see in others, but we are having difficulties recognizing it in ourselves. Denial defined psychologically is: “An unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.” What this boils down to is that we create elaborate rationalizations, justifications and blind spots to ensure we don’t have to face a truth—a truth that’s so painful we would rather lie to ourselves and others to avoid facing this agonizing reality. Yet the real stinger in the nature of denial is the element that it is unconscious. To be in denial requires you to be unconscious of the fact you’re in denial. That’s its power.
In Denial Then, In Denial Now
All of us can look back and see a time in our life when we were in denial. We could have been used by a friend or let down by a parent. In hindsight, what was not obvious then becomes obvious now.
Denial Has a Function
Like all our internal mechanisms, denial has function. If someone grows up in an abusive home as a child, denial allows them to cope with something they had no control over and it can protect them from the trauma they weren’t able to process when they were very young. Yet as we grow older and evolve into adulthood, we start to see denial as something that works against us—not for us. And the more we deny something, the greater a thing it becomes. The further we run, the faster it chases us. It’s better for all of us to be more conscious of our unconscious, through our own choosing. That’s better than allowing what we have been avoiding to come crashing down on us when we least expect it.
Seeing What We Don’t See
So how do we learn to see what we don’t see? We aren’t in denial about things that make us feel awesome. But in order to see the truth about what we’d rather ignore, we need courage and honesty. It’s up to us to open ourselves up to what’s really there and we need to be willing to face what gets revealed. If you’re wondering what you’re in denial about, think about what topics make you defensive. If a topic makes you defensive, it means that it has struck a nerve. It causes you to attack outward to avoid looking inward. Defensiveness is an overreaction to something we are in denial about.
Avoidance is another red flag of denial. Some of us may avoid looking at our credit card statements because we are in denial of how much debt we are in. We know that not looking at it won’t make the debt go away—we just want to deal with it another day. We’re trying to avoid the unavoidable.
Trust the feedback of someone close to you. They can tell you what you are in denial about. If they have good intentions and care about you, be open to what they have been observing about the way you are.
Deepen the Love for Yourself
Deepen and further the compassion and love you have for yourself. It’s really the most powerful means of becoming more aware of your unconscious. Fear is at the heart of denial. Perhaps you fear not being good enough, your fear failure or your fear not being loved. If you nurture a more intimate care for yourself, your fears will become less powerful and your ability to deny what is unpleasant, yet truthful, will become harder and harder. Self-love gives us permission to have faults and scars, and in the end, you will realize that you had nothing to really fear.