It’s such a comfortable place to live. I know from personal experience. I spent a good part of my life living in denial. I think that to some point, we all live in denial. We conveniently ignore the not so great bits of life – the state of our climate, how our meat is slaughtered, and who made our clothes.
We don’t really like people who push us out of our comfort zone. Our comfortable little space of denial. We start to feel a little indignant when someone tries. We squirm a little. Change isn’t something we humans enjoy very much, especially when it means changing our behaviors or confronting a tough issue.
Sometimes, when we are forced to confront a problem, we diminish that problem. We hear about child labor being used to make the shirts we wear, and we quickly find a way to make that problem seem like a less of a problem. We tell ourselves that well, there really isn’t much we can do, is there? We can shop at the right places and hope those companies are honest and good. And really, is it our fault if a company uses child labor? You’re the innocent in this, of course.
There. Problem solved. Remove yourself from the equation, carefully putting aside all blame. Wash your hands of the issue.
I saw my therapist last week, and we talked a bit about denial, and why people choose to stay in denial, even when it’s hurting others.
For example. You meet a man. He’s sweet, and kind, and steadfast. You are one hundred percent sure he’s the man for you. You marry, settle down, and have a child together.
You love this man. He’s nothing but amazing to you. You feel like soulmates, and you seem to know each other so well. You’re aware he’s human, and sometimes humans fail, but your husband is just too good of a person to do anything really bad. Too upright. Not that kind of guy.
One day the police show up at your door. You’ve been married for a while now, and you have a great house. Your child is excelling in school, and your financial needs are being met. In fact, your family might even take a vacation in the Caribbean that year! The police standing at your doorstep are an unwelcome surprise.
The police sit you down, and tell you that your husband has been collecting and distributing child pornography.
Right then and there, you feel your world fall apart. It can’t be true. Your husband? The sweet guy who cried while you were in labor? The man who woke up early and worked hard every day to provide for his family? The same man that bought you a beautiful ring for your anniversary is also a..pedophile?
It can’t be true. Is it? You think about it in the weeks that come. You spend hours going from blindingly angry to sure that he must have been framed. You wonder – did he touch your child? You’re a wreck. A mess, wondering how could this person that you thought you knew, do something so terrible?
You visit your husband in jail. He tells you it was an accident – he just came across it on a porn site. He looks so innocent, so sad. He cries. He tells you he misses you, and how this is all a misunderstanding, and that he’ll be home soon.
You’re now sure it was a mistake. You sleep next to this man every night. You smiled to yourself when you heard him singing in the shower. He’s just so sweet, so right, so normal. He can’t be a monster. You refuse to believe it. Everyone else just misunderstood. They’re liars, out to get you and your family. They want nothing more than to destroy the life you’ve built.
So, rather than admit the fact that your husband can be completely human, completely normal, and a predator, you decide to build your own reality.
Denial. Because if you didn’t even know the man you married, who are you? What does this say about your judgment? Your values? What about the family you two had spent decades building? What will people think?
Denial is simple. It’s easy. It provides a way out of your mess. Rather than admit that there is something wrong, you diminish. You dismiss. You ignore. The denial is so concrete in your brain, that you become almost angry when anyone dare to tell you you’re wrong.
By choosing denial, life can go back to normal for you. You have your house, your kid, and your money. All is right. All is in its place. You do what the rest of us do. We go about our daily lives. We smile, because we’re happy. Nothing is wrong.
You can go to the super market and buy bacon without a second thought. The curtain has closed – all you see is a clean package containing layered meat. You don’t need to shield your eyes about what was going on behind the scenes, and you very easily ignore the quickly pooling blood. Just step over it. Smile.