Denial is such a destructive behavior. It is a coping mechanism we use to try and refuse to accept the reality of what’s happening or has happened in our lives. Denial stops us from facing a truth we don’t want to believe. A belief we have created about a person or event.
A common example of this is when a close friend that you’ve known and trusted for years has betrayed you or lied to you. Your denial of this event is almost instant, as we automatically assess the event to the beliefs we have about this person. Your belief might be ‘she/he would never do that to me’, thus not aligning with the reality that she/he did in fact do that to you. The pain that our beliefs might be wrong or not realistic about this person is so great that denial acts to avoid or numb the pain we’re feeling. Further to that, we then adopt other ways of keeping the truth away by blaming someone else, trying to justify their behaviour, or minimise the betrayal.
When I disclosed to my own mother that her father was abusing me, her immediate response was ‘You’ve got to be joking!’ When the police became involved she went into complete denial (and still does to this day) because she could not accept the reality that her father could betray her in the most cruelest of ways. Her belief about her father being the ‘perfect man’, her own protector , could not be shifted even when the evidence and truth was before her. To try and shift the truth, she wanted to blame my other grandfather and created an idea that somehow I had mixed the two grandfathers up. She would dissect my story and try and pinpoint errors in my accounts, all in an attempt to destroy the very truth she couldn’t accept.
Denial was her way of coping. To deny it meant she didn’t have to question her father, or the beliefs she had about her father. Denying the abuse also meant she didn’t have to look at her own role in protecting her daughter. Going into denial protected my mother from looking at everything she had never questioned.
Her full blown denial of the abuse was almost instantaneous. She avoided the topic altogether. She would never discuss it and when I brought it up, her face and posture would immediately move to a position of self-protection mode and the wall would go up. The pain of her reality, was and is simply too much to bear. To deny it and avoid it, in my mother’s eyes, meant it didn’t happen.
The consequence of denial is that the pain never goes away. You become accustomed to a life where challenges are never overcome, obstacles are never faced and you surround yourself with people who enable your denial and do not challenge your behaviours.
It’s a limiting life. Because living in denial creates a cocoon, where we close ourselves off because we’re too afraid to trust, love, be open, and have real and loving relationships with ourselves and other people. Denial sucks the life out of us and has us existing instead of living and experiencing.
Denial inhibits our ability to grow, to be challenged and allow us to make positive changes in our lives. On the other hand, facing the reality of our lives and relationships helps us to make better decisions, to address limiting and unrealistic beliefs we have created. It opens up the pathway to better communication with ourselves and other people. It removes the blockages which limit our personal growth, allowing us to connect with each other and live more authentically.
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