How to stop living in denial

There are some seemingly intellectual adults you could be across that will display this. You’ll be having a conversation before they almost visibly “such down” and begin to sit in a state of denial. Despite seeing the truth and clearly having supportive evidence, they will still argue the most ridiculous of views.

Recently I have been more frequently having encounters with such people. It made me reflect on the reason behind why and how they came to be.

So why do we do this?

Refusing to acknowledge or accept something is a defence mechanism. Often when dealing with a range of thing such as; extreme stress, emotional conflict, threatening information and anxiety (to name a few).

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.” 
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones 


Although in the above I mentioned perceived extreme stress this state can be useful. When something is traumatic this state can support you to delay processing. Let’s say if you feel a painful lump and are unsure how to process it. You may take several days to process it before deciding to contact the doctor.

Next Steps

If you suspect someone is in denial it can be mentally draining. The main thing you have to do is put yourself first but also remember that you don’t have to be “right”. There are a few additional actions you may wish to consider;

  1. Be patient! (Denial is a coping mechanism)
  2. Check it i not lack of knowledge (repeat facts if necessary)
  3. Be open to talk about it (when they are ready to)

If you’re questionning whether it is you who is in a state of denial then here are some common signs to look out for.

Avoidance – You avoid discussing the issue perhaps in a more subtle way such as making light of it.

Deflection – If someone raises it with you then you provide examples of where others have done this or similar in order to justify the problem.

Downplay – This is often it’s not a big deal and you’ll get round to it soon… however soon never arrives.

Out right denial – Usually from the stronger willed individual you’ll just get outright unwillingness to recognise the issue at hand.

Lack of ownership – Often not acknowledging that you have a problem and instead accusing others of causing one.

When someone you care about is in denial it can be both difficult and frustrating. However with the right support it is possible to move past this state and to tackle any issues at hand. 

Have you ever had to deal with someone in a state of denial? Let me know your tips below.

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