Denial Is The River To Hell
I’m not sick. It’ll be OK. Soon everything will be normal. These are things people say all the time. They are normal, comforting things to say. But they all have one thing in common: denial of a state of affairs. And denial is the river to hell.
Denial is the act of refusing to accept that something is true. In other words, you must KNOW it is true first and then choose to refuse to accept it. At it’s best, denial is what allows humans to perform incredible feats of strength and endurance, both physical and emotional. It allows us to overcome illness and adversity.
But at its worst, denial is a massive roadblock for change.
The 5 Problems with Denial
Denial is problematic because it acts against the rationality and science that has built our world to where it is. It signifies a belief in the importance of my opinions overall and any proof. In short, it is a raging act of egoism. And, as noted above, sometimes this actually helps us to survive.
But it is also what keeps us firmly in place in the path of an oncoming apocalypse. Climate denial. Corona denial… In short, when we deny, we claim ourselves to be the exception. By being the exception, we are exempted from following the rules. By not following the rules, we expose everyone around us to risk. But we’re OK because, well, we are the exception, right?
But apart from this ethical problem with denial, it is also problematic in terms of growth or advances. By refusing to acknowledge problems, challenges or issues, we also deny the opportunity for growth, change or positive impact. Instead, we seek to reinforce the pre-existing status quo. In short, we try to act like the world is a perfect, unchanging entity that needs no amendment.
By focussing on what is NOT, the denier gives up on what already is and what might be. A negative mindset like this cannot imagine growth, improvement or positive change. Instead, it must invest everything in their counter to denial… even though they know it is not true.
Denial assumes a black/white, yes/no nature to our reality,. It not only negates the object of denial but also that there may be a whole raft of unexplored possibilities out there. In short, denial shuts down the openness to ambiguity and complexity that the thinking mind requires to discover new answers and option.
The Road Out Of Denial
If you feel compelled to deny that certain things exist or are true, there are a few things you can do:
Play ‘What if…’ What if this doesn’t matter, what if I’ll be OK anyway, What if this is true?
Say yes And instead of Yes BUT… ‘and’ is open-ended, it requires the story to continue. BUT is like denial in that it gives a reason to stop. Don’t stop, keep thinking, follow the train of thought past the station called Denial until you get to the real, rational conclusion.
And lastly, practise acceptance. Suspend your judgement of how good or bad anything is and just accept it as being, as being true. Denial costs energy that could be better used elsewhere, Acceptance requires almost none.
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