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Denial: A Guide

Denial is perhaps one of the more quixotic phenomenons which takes place in our mind. Too often, we strictly see denial as something negative or some kind of a deficient default we resort to when we refuse to or find ourselves incapable of coping with a difficult truth. In part, this view on denial is true. Part of our relationship to denial is using it as a deflection from harsh realities, responsibilities, or decisions. Sometimes, and only truly sometimes, are we actually in conscious recognition of our behavior. Most of the time, denial rests on the eyes of our mind, body, and soul as a veil or blindfold- we can’t see it, we can’t recognize it, and therefore, we can’t do anything about it until we can see or recognize it.

How Does Denial Function

World-recognized author and leader on the topic of codependency Melody Beattie has a unique look at denial. In her book Codependent No More, she explains that denial is less of an intentional, or unintentional, pair of blinders to the world, but a survival effort which buys us time to prepare. “Denial is the shock absorber for the soul,” Beattie writes. “It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our other coping resources.” In this view, we can still see denial as an intentional tool, but from a different perspective. Whatever truth is awaiting our comprehension on the other side of denial, it is denial which keeps the truth at a distance until we’re ready to take it on entirely. Pain, loss, and change are inherently traumatizing- these everyday, normal occurrences  can change the way we see ourselves, the world around us, and our place in that world. Even though pain, loss, and change are normal, if we’ve experienced trauma in our lives, having to deal with just one more ounce of pain, change, or loss in our lives can seem unbearable. We rely on denial to give us time to get ready to take the change on, feel through the pain, and situate to loss. Whether it is a relationship, grief, giving up a substance of choice or a problematic behavior; whether it is recognizing our own actions or the actions of someone else, we won’t be able to see it or move through it until we see we are in denial, then break through denial.

Can Denial Be Dangerous?

If we made it to treatment for our trauma, addictions, and/or other mental health issues, we should consider ourselves some of the lucky ones. We may or may not have been in denial, and if we were in denial, however long it ended, it finally did come to an end. Coming out of denial or staying in denial when it comes to our trauma, addictions, and/or other mental health issues does not make us any more strong or weak, better or worse of a person. We are all on a unique path to recovery, which is never over once we graduate treatment. Many of us stayed in denial about certain parts of our lives through treatment and beyond. Some of us found ourselves deep in denial about new situations in life long after treatment with solid recovery under our belts.

Tragically, far too many of us stayed stuck in denial longer than our time on earth allowed us to get out of. We see the heartbreaking story happen over and over again. Vehemently, our friends, family, loved ones, or even acquaintances hold steadfast to their convictions of denial, not able to or willing to recognize that:

      • We have a problem
      • Our problem is creating other problems in our lives, both for ourselves and possibly for others
      • There is a solution to our problem, but it will take work to live in a solution-oriented lifestyle
      • We are worthy and deserving of finding and living in the solution to our problem

Most unfortunately, there is a final point which our long held denial prevents us from embracing:

      • What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but what we don’t allow to make us stronger can kill us.

Denial can be dangerous when potentially life-threatening behaviors and/or substances are involved. When someone is in denial about their alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorder, or a very serious medical condition, they are putting their life at risk. There can be times when another person is involved like a child, a spouse, or a family member, when one’s destructive denial is harmful to them. Denial perpetuates most often through a cycle of enabling from others and a vehement opposition to the idea of vulnerability to those who are in denial.

In our next Alumni blog, we’re going to look at breaking through denial and what steps to take next.

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800