Happy Thursday !
Denial: Refusal to see, hold, admit the reality of the truth of something unpleasant, painful or devastating
I’ve been sitting with the word denial and pondering over how often we use this defense mechanism or coping skill and the benefits and consequences of its usage. We use denial so much that we are completely unaware that we are in it.
The truth is if we actually held the reality of the depth of hurtful things at all times this would definitely impact our daily functioning and emotional wellbeing. However, constant denial of reality, needs, truths and feelings bears a toll as well. When we constantly push down truth, reality, memories, or emotional pain, we impact not only our mental health, but our physical, spiritual and relational health are at stake.
So many of us had to learn to deny reality in our childhoods. If we had parents that were critical, unavailable, neglectful, self-absorbed, immature, abusive, addicted to something, or hurtful in some way then we had to deny that reality in order to keep loving our parents.
Most children created a completely different scenario about their parents. Children very often put their parents on a pedestal and sometimes even make them “God like” because their parents are their source of survival. Most children are not given the right to confront or discuss their parents hurtful or negligent behavior. Children so often normalize certain dysfunction or hurtful experiences from parents because it’s all they know. They label dysfunction normal. This is the beginning of denial of reality. The most intense form of denial is something called dissociation. A strong protective mechanism that moves an overwhelming experience completely out of our conscious awareness. Some people can actually have complete amnesia about an event or years of their childhood. Some children have parents that gaslight their children’s emotions or reality. Narcissist and self absorbed parents can do incredible damage to a child’s overall wellbeing and their reality testing skills.
As we grow older, we may find ourselves in relationships where we are being ignored, abused, lied to, criticized, mistreated, or where there is infidelity. We may be in relationships where we are being blamed for everything that is wrong. Here’s where we see denial used more often. We want desperately to be loved and keep the relationship. We fear rejection, being alone or abandonment, so we allow this hurtful behavior to continue and we do this by denial, rationalizing or minimizing it’s impact. We do this by taking on all the blame in the relationship dynamic. There is a huge physical and emotional cost that comes from being in dysfunction and hurtful relationships dynamics.
Everyone has struggles in their relationships. Relationships are often laboratories for bringing up denied and unresolved material from childhood and other hurtful experiences. If two people choose to be a healing and safe place to explore there can be a wonderful healing and transformational experience.
If two people are not trying to heal their past and only functioning from projection or continued maltreatment occurs…. you unfortunately most likely are in a trauma bond. A vicious cycle of pain from your past and present that leaves you more wounded with no chance for healing or a corrective experience.
The only way to heal is to take time to really sit with the reality of what you really experienced in your childhood as well as your adult experiences. The truth about your parents, yourself, your previous and current relationships, and the hurt, the neglect, abuse or betrayal you experienced. Allow time for the emotions to surface and be kind and compassionate to yourself.
I often use the technique of writing out the truths and reading them out loud. This can help break the untruths that you might be telling yourself to keep denial alive.
Reach out for support, get in therapy and engage in quality self care. Take your time as you begin to learn to come out of denial. This truly is the only path to real freedom. The only chance you may have to do things differently. To take a stand, to set a boundary, to state your needs, to end something unhealthy.
It will be a very painful and difficult process to say the least. Coming out of denial is no easy path and takes immense courage.
You can still use denial at times or compartmentalization to cope. In fact, you will have to do so to function. You will learn how to take time to hold necessary truths so you can deal with reality and be healthier emotionally, physically, spiritually and relationally.
Learning when and how to come out of denial is one of the most important parts of your healing process!
Practice holding hard truths, accepting reality, feeling difficult emotions so you can finally be free!
You are resilient, brave, capable & worthy!
Kelli Leader Cook
Hopeful Insights Consulting