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.