Denial

Denial is a defensive mechanism used to numb or avoid hurt. For example: I don’t want to believe that I worked hard for something but didn’t get it–I can’t accept it, this reality can’t be real.  I don’t want to believe I’m not as good as I thought I was–everyone else must be wrong.  I don’t want to believe that I need to pay this bill or take this test–maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.

Why we do it:
1. Denial instantly and magically removes what makes us sad or whatever we don’t want. The instant gratification of denial makes it very appealing and addicting.
2. There are in fact times where ignoring the problem does actually make it go away, either because the problem was actually just in your own mind, or because someone else takes care of the problem for you [somehow, for some reason].
3. We lack the mental health or self confidence to handle the truth.  Loosing a loved one is an example of something painful to accept, so we may not believe it until enough time has passed for the news to sink in.

Why it doesn’t work:
1. Most of the time, the problem doesn’t go away when you deny its existence.  At some point, the truth of reality forces itself into yours, and when it does, it often isn’t pleasant.  For instance, if I tell you that the floor is wet and therefore slippery, but you want to run across it so you hope maybe it’s not as wet and slippery as advertised, then you might end up slipping and getting hurt as a result of your denial: had you accepted the fact that the floor is slippery and wet, you would have been more careful and avoided your injury.
2. Living a life of denial is a problem because denial creates within your own mind a view of reality that is inaccurate.  When you have an inaccurate view of reality, you make decisions that make sense in your head, but in reality are bad decisions: you don’t get what you want, and you can get hurt in the process.

Why we should stop doing it:
Most importantly, denial prevents progress and success, which results in failure, which results in denial as a coping mechanism–a cycle that traps you from getting out and getting help.  Unresolved problems can also come up unexpectedly, causing further life complications.  Therefore, if you want to live a healthy and productive life, you should learn to recognize and treat denial.

Recognizing Denial:
1. Ask yourself why you do the things you do, or think the things you think, and answer yourself honestly.  By asking yourself why, you can find when the answer is drinking to escape worries, gaming to procrastinate work, delusional reality to avoid facing truth, etc., clear signals that denial is at play.
2. Excuses are a form of denial: you are denying personal responsibility.  If you find that you always have an excuse, then that is a sign that perhaps your excuses aren’t the problem, you are.  In general, excuses should be rare exceptions to the rule.  If you find that they are the rule, that’s a sign you’re in denial.
3. Existential questions and existential crises are often due to denial as well.  If you find that you’re questioning the existence or validity of things, ask yourself if it’s out of curiosity, or are you using it as an excuse to avoid accepting the existence of something you don’t like in reality.

Treating Denial:
Get the mental health to evaluate yourself critically and honestly, and to face honest criticism from others if they are valid. (Steps to be healthyGet Self Worth)
Understand, accept, take ownership of reality (Life Education Curriculum)

This post is included in AttemptedLiving’s Guide to Handling Emotions and Problems

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