featured photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski
I have a friend named Anne. She is a counselor by trade, and is always full of wise thoughts and words. Something she has said more than once struck me as especially profound, so I thought I’d share and elaborate a bit.
“Denial can be a positive thing. None of us would get on the freeway without denial.”
When you hear the word denial, your thoughts likely turn to the negative. You might conjure up images of alcoholics, drug addicts, or just a person with any type of addiction. You might think of someone in an abusive relationship. You might think of a friend with a spoiled kid that get’s anything he/she wants. Or a friend that has a problem that just doesn’t want to talk about it.
And you have probably thought at some point that “they’re in denial”.
They likely are, true. But when you think about it, denial is just the refusal to recognize something, especially as a problem, and that can be a good thing where self-preservation and sanity are involved.
Think about the point Anne made about the freeway. Surrounded by cars, we travel at high speeds, most of the time assuming that everyone around us is alert, sober, and not distracted. Are we crazy? Not really, we just deny the bad things that could happen, and go about our business.
For me, denial kicks in when I fly. I mean seriously, getting into a metal contraption that is going to lift you thousands of miles up into the air,with nothing but air holding said contraption up, and that’s just ok? Not really, it’s denial. But it’s that denial that allows me to purchase my ticket, check in at the airport, board the plane, and have faith that the pilot will safely get me from point A to point B. And we all know that sometimes doesn’t work out. But my denial allows me to have complete faith (almost) that I will arrive safely at my destination. That’s the power of denial.
This isn’t to say that denial is always positive. Too much denial can become destructive, to both a person and the people that love them. But sometimes a person just needs to not think, pay attention to, or talk about something. It seems like the pervading opinion in society is that denial is unhealthy. But perhaps part of that is our need (especially as women) to try and fix a problem or help a friend. And when a friend won’t open up we consider it insulting, and just say that they’re “in denial”.
But if someone is going through a rough patch, denial might be what is getting them through. Sometimes we have to set the negative stuff aside in order to survive. And this might involve plugging our ears, closing our eyes, and humming loudly. But as long as we continue functioning normally, and are content in life, does it really matter?