Addressing the subject of denial is difficult because people often become defensive. A common mistake is to associate the word "denial" with the word "lie". This is unfortunate because denial and lying are two very different things.
Lying is done consciously. People know when they are lying. They may not be able to control their lying, but they are aware of it. Denial occurs at a different level, unconscious level. It is a process of blocking reality, that is, preventing the person from being aware of something that threatens them. No one knows when they are "in denial". It is not that denial is invisible. We can often see denial when it manifests itself in others, but not in ourselves.
Denial manifests itself in many ways, here are some of them:
- Not seeing that a problem exists.
- Not recognizing the extent or severity of the problem.
- Not understanding that help is needed to solve the problem.
Denial is so common among people who have become addicted to one substance or another, caught up in one behaviour or another, that the addiction has been referred to as a pathological stage known in common parlance as the "disease of denial" or by metaphor as " 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink'
People recovering from addiction are usually surprised by the depth of their denial when it comes to them during the recovery process. Denial can be a fatal aspect in the impasse of suffering. Denial makes one vulnerable to taking greater risks for longer periods of time. It impairs judgment and leads to self-delusion, preventing one from seeing and understanding the implications and consequences of a behaviour until it is too late. Psychological defences - which every living person has in large numbers, not just in the case of addiction, work to keep denial active, here are some of them: Rationalize, Minimize, Justify, Explain, Generalize, Change the subject, Blame, Yell and Intimidate... some of the most common.
Denial is a defence used in many areas of life, developed and maintained in any circumstance or situation for example:
- A battered spouse does not recognize the extent of the abuse until it has serious consequences.
- A person does not see the depth of dysfunction in their primary relationship until their partner tells them they want to end it.
- A person doesn't recognize the decline in their physical health until they become very ill.
Coming out of denial is a tricky business. It requires willingness and openness, but most of all it requires humility, a lot of humility. The ability to see and accept a truth about oneself can be so overwhelming when the ego, all claws out, is standing by. We know that denial is a universal quality in humans. "Everyone, including me, has blind spots," but that's often where we end up, unable to admit that simple questions like this one: "If I feel defensive, I must be hearing something threatening to me. What could it be?" "What does he/she see in me that I cannot see?" "Could it be that I am delusional about this?" can be elaborated and heard.
It is essential to establish a trusting relationship with someone who is willing and able to bring us through our speech to confront this modality honestly, openly and above all without judgment, because to fully benefit from the process, we must open our mouths and speak out loud with another person. It is then that denial loses its power over us and, as a result, changes occur.