THE POWER OF DENIAL
“Whether it’s the trial of our life, a mounting credit card or the suspicion that someone close may be betraying us, we all do it.”
Good morning and welcome back.
I won’t ask if you’ve missed me because I already know that you’ve missed a good Tony read on a Sunday morning because you have nothing better to do (like sleep) than to scroll, scroll, scroll, (and often) smack! On your device as you lie there.
Wow, it’s been a very busy month, and, as some of you may already know from this blog, my Facebook page, my website, Twitter, neon sign and that wrinkly old banner flying on the back of that plane, that this week I managed to reach that elusive page goal on Coming up For Air, and was able to enjoy the fruits of my labour in printed format, all 410 pages of it.
I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. This marks a major landmark in completing the book, and whilst there’s still work ahead, its completion is in sight. In fact, I’m anticipating being ahead of schedule and thus able to release the manuscript early to the focus group who are scheduled to convene in October 2014 to deliver their verdict!
I can’t wait for you all to read the book.
Actually, now that I’m on this subject, I’m so eager for you to read it that I’ve written a whole chapter with today’s blog post in mind, and I’m going to feature part of it below. This is one of the many true life subjects to feature in Coming Up for Air.
How about that?
But first….How are you doing this fine Sunday morning? Everything okay?
Are you sure about that?
Have another think.
Is there really nothing troubling you today? Some dark lingering thought in the back of your mind. Something that is there but you’d much rather not think about? Something that you were happily ignoring until I came a long and made you pause for thought.
Many of us are guilty of it. You might actually be doing it as you read this, you may well go on to do it after you’ve finished reading but is there really anything wrong with that?
I am of course talking about the wonderful and mystical power of denial.
Whether you’re in the dock fighting the trial of your life, ignoring that mounting credit card bill, turning a blind eye to that suspicion that someone close to you may be betraying you or burying some terrible trauma you simply can’t face, each and every one us will, sometimes subconsciously, turn to a trusty friend we know will protect us, albeit temporarily, and see us through some of the most difficult and challenging life events.
If we deny it ever happened or is happening then it isn’t, right?
I guess this takes us right back to the chapter about truth is truth. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, dress it up, say it, hide it, the truth simply is no matter what we’d prefer it to be (see The Things We Hide). The only difference is how mentally prepared we are to face it, and often, the present, the here and now isn’t the right time and, more than often, nor is any time in our future, at least not according to our brain.
Apparently, it was good old Sigmund Freud who first coined the phrase ‘being in denial’, and that’s because it
was he who first suggested that human beings immersed themselves in this state when confronted with situations that were too uncomfortable and or horrific for them to deal with. Thus to deny the existence of the situation or event equalled not having to process the fact that it was.
Mind bending yet?
There are various degrees of being in denial. From deep trauma, such as experiencing or witnessing something horrific to knowing you have to go back to a job you hate on Monday morning after 2 of the best vacation weeks of your life.
Here are some of the key types:
Denial of Responsibility; shifting the blame away from yourself and often onto others in an effort to make you look less culpable and or favourable to others.
Denial of Impact; the impact that your actions will have on the things and or people around you. By denying impact you’re denying the assumption of a sense of guilt or remorse that acknowledging the impact of your actions would entail.
Denial of Cycle; as in denying the sequence of events that led to the eventual outcome. “I wasn’t even there,” is a common phrase along with any substantial (or flimsy) testimony you can present to back up your claim.
Denial of Awareness; as in denying the fact that you knew anything about the event by adding some mitigating circumstance. “I didn’t see what happened because I was busy washing my car.” Also believed to be commonly used in a more cynical way by some (stereotypically corporate bosses) who use others to take action in their absence thus giving them the legal stance of “Plausible Deniability”.
Similarly, denying that you have a problem means there’s nothing that you need to address and or correct. E.g. addicts who deny having an addiction. This is the antithesis to “Hi my name’s Tony and I’m an alcoholic” (but only socially).
Denial of Denial (my favourite); a state of self-delusion that often overlaps all other forms of denial. Here, the denier actually denies being in a state of denial and sees no reason for correcting any behaviour that may well be harmful to themselves and others.
Recognise any of these?
Sure you do.
The brain’s automatic defence mechanism places us in a state of denial by telling the conscious that in fact it never happened, often deceiving itself into thinking that it was our own imagination fabricating untruths, and because this version of the event is much more palatable, the conscious actually clings to it as reality.
This can also be true of those who witness rather than experience an event first hand.
Such as a mother may well have been aware of or even witnessed the abuse of a daughter by her father however, because she believed herself incapable of doing anything to stop the abuse, she’d actually put herself into a state of denial that it ever happened since acknowledging this would not only have a devastating effect on her (as the person who made the partner choice) but would also contribute to the horror of coming to terms with the real world degradation of her own family. Being in a state of denial would enable her to cope with this horrendous burden.
The scary thing is she may not even realise she’s doing it. The state of denial may well have blocked the episode out completely.
This is one of the many scenarios that’s particularly dangerous for the victim also for not only will she be potentially denying that the event ever took place (and thus holding on to all of the associated feelings that come with this type of trauma) but she may well, if she becomes aware of her mother’s perceived ‘betrayal’, develop and foster repressed animosity towards her for her inability to save her.
This mindset of denial is not so dissimilar to that of a ‘pathological liar’ who will usually tell dazzling and fantastical stories about themselves, their achievements as well as the celebrity of their circle of friends. Stories that will more than often bear no resemblance to reality and will always portray ‘The sufferer’ as a hero or indeed a victim.
Much isn’t known about pathological liars but, interestingly, what one study did find is that there’s prevalence in juvenile offenders which is the average age of onset but, most importantly, a good proportion of these subjects come from a dysfunctional home environment where a parent or family member has a mental disturbance.
A disturbance which could well be attributed to their own unresolved psychological conditions, such as the denial (or repression) of a psychological trauma that is now manifesting itself in other ways.
Thus, the pathology to lie is their way of escaping (denying) an unpalatable physical environment and or state of mind.
Similar to by nowhere near as altruistic as talking about somebody else’s problems and forgetting your own!
So, are you still okay?
I realise that that particular dark journey may have been somewhat unpalatable to you, as a reader! Imagine what it must be like for the protagonists.
So take a few seconds to shake it off. There you go, the sun is shining again, the birds are singing, and everything is right in the world once more.
OK, so now I’d like you to carefully consider my next question.
How many times have you witnessed yourself or somebody you know have a verbal outburst that appeared to come from absolutely nowhere? One where everything seemed just fine and then, suddenly, bam! Where the hell did that come from?
Take a few seconds to think about it.
Can you think of a particular time?
Some men will often joke that this is pretty much the norm when it comes to their partners. One minute she seems fine and the next she’s flying off the handle.
In fact, some males will (at their peril) even go as far as patronising a female by explaining away their so called outburst as hormones or a particular time of the month. When in reality, more than often, and as odd this may seem, it’s actually her way of trying to communicate, thus talking down to her is probably not the best course of action.
The truth is, if your partner has an out of character episode then it could simply be down to them having a particularly bad day or even week.
You will have heard of the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
However, if these episodes are becoming more frequent then, chances are, there’s some other troubling or irritating thing that hasn’t and isn’t being addressed. On the other hand, if these outbursts appear to be a perpetual state or have been present for a sustained and long period of time then you may well be seeing the side effects of some other physical condition, grievance or trauma that has been repressed and is manifesting itself in some other way.
That or they’re inherently a grumpy git!
And as logical and easy a conclusion as that may sound, remember that we’re all pretty much a by-product of our own lives, so if there’s something eating someone, there’s a distinct possibility that it’s due to a particular type of life experience.
So don’t always take it personally!
Instead, if somebody you care about is behaving out of character then take the time (yes you can find it if it’s really important enough to you) to sit them down and have an eyeball to eyeball chat. Yes, as alien as that situation may well sound. Just take some time out (maybe even away from the house) and ask them, earnestly, “What’s happening to you? I’m worried something may be troubling you.”
Trust me, you’ll earn points for being considerate. That or they’ll think there’s something wrong with you!
The irony is, that many people who read this will actually be quite reluctant to subject themselves to this somewhat simplistic process.
Well, because they’ll understandably be somewhat apprehensive about what they may find. Move that proverbial rock and who knows what kind of black and ugly things are going to skitter out from underneath there.
Of course by avoiding the issue you know what you’re doing, right?
That’s it; putting yourself in a state of denial. If you deny there’s a problem that requires you to sit down and have a serious conversation with your partner then it doesn’t exist, right?
Fear not, it isn’t just you. We all do it, and we even have a name for it; eyes wide shut. You can check out a similar post by that very name by clicking here.
In the meantime, I’m going to tell you a story about a woman called Katy, a relatively attractive 40 year old blonde. Katy believed she had it all; a successful and handsome husband, two beautiful young children, a large detached house and regular holidays in exotic locations.
In fact, life was everything Katy had dreamed of as a child and more. At least until that fateful Monday morning.
It was a gloriously sunny day. Outside, the birds were noisily announcing the arrival of spring as the scent of freshly mowed grass drifted through the slit of the open bedroom window.
Katy was in the en suite bathroom, humming a tune to herself, where she was busy sifting through the contents of the laundry basket when….
I’m sorry but that’s all folks!
Katy’s full true life story is one of many to feature in Coming Up for Air which, as you know, is due to be published next year. So if you’d like to read her sensational true story then be sure to pick up a copy.
If you’d like to follow the manuscript’s journey, from research to paper, and be in with a chance to win a free signed copy of Coming Up for Air upon publication then like and interact with its Facebook page by clicking here.
See you next month! Until then, have an honest Sunday.
“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” Ernest Hemingway
‘THE POWER OF DENIAL’ is an extract from the working manuscript COMING UP FOR AIR by Tony Marturano published here with kind permission. (C) Copyright 2014 Tony Marturano. All rights reserved.