“I’m unsubscribing.” That’s what the message read when I opened the email. It was from my 20 year old son who no longer wanted to subscribe to my blog. He’d just read the first paragraph of the post where I’d described flying cross country in a black lace teddy to meet my husband. His father. Apparently, it had traumatized him.
I probed, “Well, son how do you think you got here?”
“I don’t care. . . I don’t want to know.” He continued, “There are just some things I just don’t want to think about.”
“You can deny it all you like, son,” I said in my most mature mom voice. “but,” I continued, lowering my voice to a mock whisper, “IT happened. . . IT happens.”
He gave me the “grow up, Mom,” look. Then, he quivered, made a face of total disgust, plugged his ears, and marched out of the room, with me shouting after him, “We did it! We did it! We dooooo it!”
Clearly at that moment, he was in denial. And in his case, denial was a beautiful thing.
Many of us live in denial at one time or another in our lives without even realizing it.
Denial is a coping mechanism we use when we encounter something we don’t want to see or think about or accept.
It’s really quite handy, but it can be dangerous as well because it can keep us from acknowledging the truth and moving past hurtful events in our lives. Just because you don’t want to believe something happened doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Denial can give us time to adjust to a painful or stressful situation. It’s a survival technique. Some of us grow up in families or live in situations where we need strong coping mechanisms just to help us focus on what we need to do to survive. And, denial can be useful in those cases, as long as it’s temporary.
Denial becomes dangerous when it prevents us from adjusting and moving on with our lives. You can be in denial about almost anything: a death, an alcoholic parent, a divorce, an abusive relationship, a job loss, personality flaws, financial troubles, your own abilities.
The more painful the event, the more likely you are to deny that it happened. If you’re anything like me, you’ve denied way too many things in your life for way too long. Just because I want to deny something or pretend it didn’t happen, doesn’t make it any less true.
The only way we can mature and move past our past is to deal with it, its impact and consequences. You can keep pretending that it didn’t happen, but you’ll remain stuck in the past and you may constantly battle depression or anxiety.
So how do you know if you’re in denial?
- Do you hide embarrassing details about your life, your past, or your family?
- Do you dismiss or distrust your feelings?
- Do you think about what your life could have been if only. . .
- Do you feel resentful towards others, i.e. your parents, your mate?
- Are you a people pleaser?
- Do you think things will improve when/if you . . .
- Do you constantly anticipate that a relationship will change or improve?
- Do you dread discussing” the problem”?
We have too many resources today to live in a constant state of denial. Help is available, but first you’ve got to acknowledge there’s a problem. It’s not easy facing issues or events from your past, but facing them head on is the only way to move past them.
At some point, we all have to come to terms with issues and events in our lives just as every child has to come to terms with the fact that their parents get naked (within the sanctity of marriage) and flop around like two fish on a beach.
I’m not talking about small issues like human mating habits. I’m talking about bigger issues. Issues that stop you from living and achieving all that God has planned for your life. No matter what has happened in the past, God has a plan for dealing with it. It’s just a suggestion, but I don’t think denial is His long-term strategy.
What issue might you be in denial about?
Join me next week for Part 2: Dealing with Denial