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Aug 052014

Denying that something is “wrong” or “dangerous” when it is really wrong or dangerous can cause us damage because by denying that something is wrong, we will not take ACTION.

Denial kills action, action that might would save our lives. Denial is found in every walk of our lives. Short term, denial is a protective emotional state. For example if you get a call telling you that your loved one has been killed in a car wreck. You immediately go into denial because you can not fathom it could be true. You are not emotionally able to “swallow” this bad news whole so you deny it can be true. “Oh, that can’t be true, maybe he’s only hurt!” You “know” logically that the police are not going to call you and tell you he is dead if he is not, but at the same time, EMOTIONALLY you are not able to accept the death of someone dear. Short term that denial is a protective state.

Long term though denial is counter productive. Using the above scenario as an example, let’s say you stayed in denial and refused to bury your loved one because you just couldn’t believe he was really truly dead?

As a Registered Nurse Practitioner I have seen family members refuse to believe that their child on life support, or their father or mother, is brain dead and they believe that some day they will wake up. Refusing to accept reality tears individuals and families apart.

I have friends who have had physical symptoms that medically were very worrisome to me, and they ignored them or tried home remedies because they were in denial about the seriousness of their symptoms….denied until they almost died. I’ve had patients as well that refused to even discuss that the lump in their breast might be cancer, denied it until it was too late to save their lives.



I lived in denial for many years, denying the evidence that my son was a monster and a stone cold killer. It was easier for me to maintain that state of denial than to accept that my son was beyond the reach of man or God to heal his soul. Yet, now that I have finally gotten out of that denial, I realize just how much energy it took to maintain that state of denial. I was in a constant emotional crisis. Sure, letting go of the denial (which is a healthy short term part of grieving over a loss) I was then able to progress through the other stages of the grief process and eventually arrive at an acceptance.

Sure, having a son like Patrick is not what I wanted, or having my husband dead is not what I desired, but I can ACCEPT that what is the case is true and I therefore to ACT on what is true. What is a fact, not what I would LIKE to be real.

Accepting unpleasant truths is not easy, but in the total cost in energy, it is actually easier than maintaining denial and living in a fantasy world of our own manufacture.

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  6 Responses to “Denial can literally kill you”

  1. article up

  2. Joyce, at first glance, the title of this article would cause me to respond, “That’s a little overblown, isn’t it?” Well, the terrible truth is that it is NOT blown out of proportion and denial can, and DOES, kill in some way or another. Either figuratively, or literally, pretending that everything’s great, or refusing to accept a painful truth can destroy our very beings.

    I know that I spent my first marriage in utter denial – I knew that Victor’s behaviors and actions were abusive and that I was responding TO the abuse, myself. I developed extreme histrionics, passive/aggressive behaviors, and a host of other behavioral defects simply in order to maintain the illusion that we had a great marriage. Joyce, the time and energy that I expended on keeping the Denial Monkey fed and content was such a tragic waste – for myself, and for my children.

    Nobody wants to believe “bad” things about someone that they care for. Of course, they don’t! But, the truths are often unpleasant and unappealing. Victor was a bona fide abuser, on every level. My denial of that simple but painful truth almost cost my children their lives, and mine, as well. The second exspath……….I denied EVERY red flag that I observed, particularly his open hatred/adoration of his mother. Saying that he abhorred material things, yet getting as many material things that he wished for.

    Denial locks out reality. And, denial can (and, certainly DOES) kill.

    Excellent article, Joyce, and one that needs some good, strong discussion to process.

  3. One of my favorite stories, and I may have told it already is about denial in WWII. A woman who had escaped to Canada from Germany with her father (they were Jewish) and her mother before the awful truth was 100% apparent ab out what Hitler was planning for the Jews, and her father tried and tried to get the neighbors (other Jewish families) to leave and go with them on foot to safety, but the neighbors were all in DENIAL ABOUT THE DANGER….and they all perished. she said some of them said “But what would we do with our furniture?” LOL They DIED because of denial of what was becoming apparent that Hitler wanted to do away with all the Jews.

    The energy expended trying to FEED THE DENIAL MONKEY as you so clearly put it, also causes us tremendous stress and fatigue and you and I both know that STRESS KILLS, it kills our immune system, it kills brain cells and can have all kinds of horrible effects on our minds and our bodies. The more research about the negative effects of stress I read the more I wonder how I even survived because I stayed in so many dysfunctional relationships for so long they ATE UP MY ENERGY.

    Some one said a while back, if someone tries to pull you into their drama just say

    NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEY! and that goes right along with what you were saying truthy.

  4. Joyce, LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely, it’s the drama/trauma circus that I’m right the heck OUT of. The instant that I can even smell drama/trauma, I”m cautious and already backing out.

    And, the denial that kills is also the denial that becomes an addiction – that addiction to false hope and the drama/trauma that surrounds it. I can remember when I had finally left the first abusive exspath, Victor, and I was sitting in my apartment without any cable television, etc., and I was listening to some NPR program on my radio. There wasn’t any tension, expectancy of violence, or expectancy of “nice” treatment – I just WAS. And, it was such an unfamiliar place for me to be that I experienced a panic of sorts.

    There’s a whole lot going on in relationships with offenders and the like – more than the obvious or “surface” issues, and it has become a personal imperative to recover and rewire my thinking so that I’m never an easy prey, again.

    • Truthy, you are absolutely right…being in a dramatic relationship(s) takes more energy than being at peace. Sometimes we can not avoid the dramatic situation….like riot and war, other times we have to make the decision to even flee our homes. That was a hard one for me when Hamilton was still here living in my mother’s house….to decide to leave everything and flee was very hard, and even fleeing I wasn’t going into the wilderness a foot and without anything else except my clothes like the Jewish family that fled Germany and eventually ended up in Canada.

      I think about those 40,000 people stranded on a mountain in Iraq fleeing from the ISIS…no food, no water, children dying. That sect has been persecuted for centuries and I feel for them and all the others who are victims of the ethnic and religious “cleansing” (read: genocide) going on in that country now. Hate unleashed in the name of God knows no bounds, hate unleashed in the name of politics and justice is almost as bad. Those folks on the mountain waited too long to flee…but I also imagine that there were limited options to where to go TO flee so it may not have been totally denial that kept them there a few days too late.

      But in many cases denial brings the downfall or death of individuals AND of groups because if you are in denial and hesitate, then during that time you take NO action, and taking NO action in the event of emergency or threat can lead to death. A woman who stays one day too long with her abusive husband and he kills her, etc.

      Watching for the signs of denial in ourselves is very difficult, let me repeat that VERY difficult. I think the best sign for me is if I am having great difficulty making a decision about something, I may be in denial about the seriousness of the situation, so I try to step back and examine the evidence and look for the “red flags” indicating danger and not “poo poo” them as unimportant.

  5. Good article!

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