Chapter 3: Eyes-Wide-Shut of Denial
Denial is one of the most significant factors in our resistance to act when we should.
Some thoughts bring us discomfort or pain. Denial is an unconscious technique that humans use to keep these thoughts from our awareness. Denial is a distortion of perception that allows us to evade the discomfort of certain thoughts about reality.
Everyone practices some level of denial about some sector of their life. We maintain denial systems about our family, our relationships, our health, our behavior, etc. We want ourselves to be “OK” and suppress thoughts to the contrary.
It requires a lot of psychological energy to maintain our denial. Some of the symptoms of serious denial conditions are fatigue, irritability, diminished intimacy in relationships, etc.
Why denial? Simple. Because facing facts, admitting the raw truth, would require us to act, to move, to change, to leave, to confront. And we fear that. So, on an unconscious level we decide that it is less painful to maintain the denial than to grapple with reality, and the changes it would logically demand.
We use denial for two basic purposes in our lives:
- To soften or modify reality to help us cope with it.
- To allow us to maintain our preferred self-image.
Denial is a defense against uncomfortable or unacceptable realities.
…let me give you a thumbnail sketch of the scope of it, and for the purposes of this book, divide it into to three very broad categories.
First, there is pathological denial.
This is the kind of denial that is a complete rejection of reality….
Then, there is avoidance denial.
With this sort of denial we don’t actually reject reality; we force the awareness of it from our conscious thoughts with a wide variety of strategies…
Finally, there is “recontextualizing” denial.
This is by far the most common type of denial. With this kind of denial we “spin” things, reframe them, diminish them or exaggerate them to avoid action or confrontation, maintain our comfort zone or preserve our self image.
This distortion, rather than denial, of reality is what this book aims to address. It is when we employ recontextualizing denial strategies in order to justify our resistance to taking prudent action that we place ourselves at risk and diminish what we could become.