Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Trouble With Denial

As I sit here writing this, it is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that I am in denial. The trouble is that by it's very nature, I can't actually tell. Being told by a third party also requires me to make a subjective evaluation of their ability to evaluate me.

It's tricky.

The trouble with denial, is that it leaves you open to insults from reality. Denial is the simplest way to avoid responsibility, but it isn't itself simple.

Like somebody who has just lost somebody to death, if they are reporting that 'Johnny isn't really dead, he's on vacation in Iceland and he'll be coming back any day.' that denial is quite transparent (and must be a quite powerful neural loop to suppress sufficient reality from being processed), denial in a grieving scenario is more likely to take the form of 'I'm okay, really. I've accepted that Johnny is dead and I just want this funeral out of the way so I can move on to the future.'

Key word being accepted, and not as the stark giveaway that somebody is in denial, but to be effective denial has to do a gosh darn super impression of acceptance. Denial is most effective not when it is suppressing our external reality, but our internal one.

And it's useful, it does this so we can retain function in the short term, and has a self correcting mechanism - insults from reality. It gets you through the funeral on the presumption that the day after you will wake up feeling much better. It starts to defeat itself when you wake up the next day to discover you actually feel much worse. Then denial will kick in again to protect you until you can take your next dose of reality.

I don't know, I'm skeptical as to whether you can beat denial, and expedite a process like grief or reconciliation. I'm skeptical as to whether it is desirable.

What I do know, is that I don't wish to capitulate to it long term. A hard lesson I have learned over the course of the past 3 years is that rule number one of taking a hit, is allowing yourself to feel it.

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