Denial is a very normal defense mechanism that ALL of us employ (knowingly or unknowingly) throughout our lives. Your elephant may be enormous or tiny, a putrid green or a pastel pink, but at some level we are all in denial somewhere in our lives. By becoming conscious of denial, we learn where our growing edge is. It is only when we let ourselves be aware of an issue that we can choose corrective action. It is only by responding appropriately to life's challenges that we have the opportunity to restore our integrity, dignity and self-esteem.
Denial can be profoundly helpful, even lifesaving at times.
This type of denial protects the ego from being overwhelmed by things it does not yet have the ability to cope with (as in childhood sexual abuse and other catastrophic traumas). This type of denial serves to protect us from overwhelming anxiety and pain. This is a type of denial where we actually have NO awareness at all that something exists. We don't even know we don't know it.
There are other types of denial of that can keep us trapped or stuck.
"Elephant in the room" is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. Wikipedia
When denial is used to:
- avoid taking responsibility for our actions
- to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, or
- to avoid facing a reality that needs to be dealt with
It stifles our lives.
In these types of denial we are aware of the issue at some level, but find ways to keep this awareness from getting the attention it actually needs.
Why would we "lie" to ourselves this way?
For lots of reasons. Those reasons are very human, and sometimes even outside of our awareness. No matter what the reason though, denial robs us of integrity. (You can learn more about "why" by reading this short post: Why We Lie to Ourselves
Why bother examining what makes us uncomfortable?
It requires a lot of energy to keep denial in place.
That lost energy affects our health and limits our ability to change and grow. Denial robs us of the ability to live with more hope, joy, health and integrity. You may need professional support to deal with denial that is scary, overwhelming or stubborn.
Beware: We may also be denying what's good about ourselves!
As you get more honest with yourself about where you are in denial, be sure to also examine where you are denying your talents, gifts, basic goodness and worthy yearnings! "Life stagnation" is not only held in place when we don't take responsibility for the difficulties we may be denying. We also stagnate when we deny the good about ourselves and don't permit ourselves to act through it.