“Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our other coping resources.” ~ Melody Beattie from Co-Dependent No More
The trouble of course, is when we hang out too long in denial. Just like a luxurious bubble bath at the end of a long hard day at work – it’s amazing for the first 30 minutes. And then, the water cools down, the bubbles flatten, your fingers start pruning and your husband/mom/child/cat needs to use the bathroom.
It’s served its purpose and eventually, you need to get out.
When we soak in our ‘Denial Bubble Bath’, what starts out as a safety-valve and our mind’s way of protecting us from the initial shock of the breakup or the job loss or the car accident – soon turns into a façade and a barrier for our healing and moving forward in life.
We cannot start to mourn the loss of a relationship or release our haunting past without first acknowledging it and its full effect on us.
Denial at its essence is resistance and struggle. You are arguing against what is. And when we argue and struggle against something that already is – we lose 100 percent of the time.
That doesn’t mean we accept an abusive situation or that by accepting a circumstance you are forever bound to it. It means you stop lying to ourselves that it isn’t happening, or that we are okay with it.
Sometimes it’s easy-peasy to accept and agree to events – especially when life is smooth: Your job is on track, you’ve handed that report on time, your children are doing brilliantly in school, the sun is shining and your mom is complimenting your taste in furniture.
But we all have those days when your hair refuses to cooperate, your kids throw tantrums, a random person
is trashing you on Twitter, the fridge breaks down and the neighbor has crashed into your brand new car.
One of the reasons why so many of us stay in our bathtub of denial is because we subconsciously make that unwanted circumstance that has happened mean something really unpleasant about our self-worth and/or mean something really scary about our future.
So unpleasant and scary, that we would rather soak in that cold bathtub until we catch pneumonia, than get up and dry ourselves off.
Take Sally for instance. She has been lying to herself and to others that she’s fine with being passed for promotion. Three months later, she’s walking around the office with a stupid smile on her face, all the while snapping at her colleagues, missing her deadlines, catching one cold after another and breaking up with her boyfriend.
Although in Sally’s mind, she’s better off in denial than feeling the full extent of her emotions, in reality, she’s just a walking time-bomb. Feelings are a package deal, when you repress or deny one emotion – it finds another, more aggravated way to make itself heard.
I tell my coaching clients there are several ways to ease ourselves into the process of acceptance. One way is to come up with a ‘game plan’ to deal with all the scary feelings and rush of emotions that are likely to gush as soon as we accept a certain reality.
The plan would be to try and separate the facts from the fiction. In other words, we can untangle the actual event or circumstance from the layers of meaning and interpretations we have attached to it.
Another way, which draws from the Law of Attraction, is that once we have identified what it is we are resisting and don’t want, we use it to help us identify what we do want: we ‘pivot’ to the opposite.
Instead of Sally telling herself, “I don’t want to be undervalued at this job,” she can say, “I want to work at a place that appreciates my performance and rewards it by promotion. I like the feeling of being valued. I like it when my boss sends me an encouraging email. I like it when I feel I am working as part of a happy team. This is what I deserve….etc.”
But first, Sally needs to identify the situation and accept that it has been bothering her.
Now try this:
- Write it down.
Think of a situation that has been bothering you for a long time. Take out a piece of paper and write down the details (all suffering belongs on paper not racing in our minds – sometimes just the act of writing it down and re-reading it, makes the problem more manageable and less scary).
- Separate Fact from Fiction.
Re-read what you’ve written (no judgment or self-censorship!) and try and separate the fact from the fiction (the interpretation your mind has placed on it)
- Question it.
Finally, for each limiting thought that comes up – find at least three evidence or examples from your life that makes this interpretation or limiting thought untrue.
|Fact||Interpretation or Limiting thought||3 evidence to disprove the limiting thought|
|My bank savings have gone down||I’m going to be poor by the year’s end||
With Love and Empowerment