Your lover's forgotten your birthday again, and you accept his explanation that really it's just another day in the big-picture view of things. He may even be right, what with all the wars going on, what's a wasted dinner reservation?Your co-worker hasn't been able to finish the project and promises she'll make it up to you if you just help her out one more time. You think about your own deadlines but agree to stay with her anyway. And this box of doughnuts really is going to be the last one, tomorrow you'll start a diet. Is it time you faced up to your blind spots? Even if that means you, your relationships, or "things" would change? What's holding you back to look life straight in the eye and take responsibility?
Denial has to do with hope, fear, change, and with taking responsibility. I can think of so many situations when I've been in denial. What they had in common is that I was rarely aware of being in denial. I was either thinking, or feeling, but not both in mindful unison or congruence. Helpful friends pointing out that I was in denial didn't serve to yank me out of it, on the contrary. I would get all the more defensive and scared, worried now that it was so obvious to the outside world there was something not quite right. Reacting came more naturally than taking charge and acting.
Eventually there was that moment, when situations got played out and resolved, or when I was presented with that one particular piece of information I was missing. Veils have been stripped from before my eyes and all of a sudden I saw things clearer. Who here hasn't had that kind of slap-to-forehead moment? I also saw myself clearer, and learned to be more patient with myself and not feel ashamed at how supposedly stupid I was. Despite what we may read about inner voices and nagging feelings, I can't be sure I've always had one of those. They'd probably make me feel guilty, too, because I didn't listen. How would that be helping the situation, since I can't go back in time anyway?
If there really ever had been a nagging feeling, why wouldn't I have listened to it? After all, I know what's good and what's bad for me. Maybe the consequences were too scary at the time, in which case denial helped my survival because it kept me functioning. Do you have an inner alarm-bell that cannot chime anymore because it's too cluttered to move? Or are you silencing it with drugs, alcohol, or food? How is that helping you survive, and would you agree that in order to grow, it's good to step outside the comfort zone?
I have some more questions about the nature of denial, see if you want to contribute your thoughts in the comments section. How much of our actions are guided by our subconscious, and if that's where denial lives, can we ever truly know when we're in it? Seeing as we have the choice to choose denial, or not dealing with what's bothering us, doesn't that mean we're automatically out of denial, because we're choosing to ignore the symptoms? We're choosing to stay the same, not change, maybe hope for something else to change so we won't have to? Since whatever strategy we employ doesn't work anymore (or else we'd be happy), what alternative behaviors can we think of?
Here's what I found on minddisorders.com: "Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings." It's not ok that your partner doesn't pay attention to you anymore, it's not ok that your colleague unloads her messes on your desk, and it's not ok that you're 200 pounds overweight. Go on pretending everything's fine and you might just end up hurting yourself. Why not try and face what there is to face, even for five minutes? You can set a timer, if you want, and don't even have to tell anybody. But you'll be amazed at how brave you can be, and how you can change your own outlook on your life. Awareness is the first step of the journey.
You're gonna get your feet wet either way, whether you choose the river or the sea is up to you.
Til next time, have a good one!
Image by Leminton, Flickr, Creative Commons License