There is something about seeing something happen, and yet knowing in the pit of your emotional center that it is not true, which can be the best part of delusion. There are three major flavors of denial, and this one is called “simple denial”. This is not called “simple” because it requires the fewest mundane activities to realize; it is called simple because it is supposedly easy for someone else to see. The objective viewpoint is the key to its simplicity. It should be called this because when someone successfully points out to me that I am in an intricately crafted state of denial I feel quite simple.
Denial is often referred to as a defense mechanism. The idea being akin to believing that what you can’t see can’t hurt you. In a world blackened by impenetrable darkness, where enemy and friend alike are isolated by the failure of their senses, this might be true. I find that not seeing the dangers in my life is more often accomplished by burying my head in the sand rather than some atmospheric phenomenon.
The problem with attempting to mount a defense against reality is that reality always wins. One could fairly accurately suggest that: the better the defense against reality, the worse the eventual defeat. There are, however, instances where denial works quite well.
Several years ago I received some disturbing medical information. Due to a symptom set which I had been somewhat delayed in addressing it was suggested that there “were significant reasons to believe there could be advanced cancer” in one of my internal organs. The doctor was then able to get internal specialists to clear spaces on their busy calendars to see me the next day. When the specialists were sent my information they immediatly scheduled a semi-invasive diagnostic procedure which required an anesthesiologist and a surgery room, and they scheduled it before ever seeing me in person. I was sent information on how to begin the preparation for the procedure. There were apologies provided for putting it off for two days, but “these procedures usually have to be scheduled five weeks in advance”.
There is something about knowing that one has an inoperable terminal cancer, as I knew I had, which produces some strange behaviors. I decided not to tell anyone, and kept my promise for several dozen hours. I stared awkwardly at my then pre-teen AOD and unimaginably young AYD. I felt strangely alone and isolated. Stupid things took on new meaning, and I found myself repeatedly thinking “this thing is stupid and it has taken on new meaning”. I had visions of running through fields just to drop down into a fetal ball in the center of them, and while rocking slightly I would pee my pants so I could know some warmth. I provided AYD and AOD with uncomfortably long hugs.
When I broke my vow of silence and told my wife she stated the obvious: “This is a diagnostic procedure, they have not diagnosed you with anything yet”. I looked into her eyes and imagined that I saw an anticipation of the freedom my rapid expiration and life insurance could afford.
I decided to whole heartily embrace the idea that there was nothing wrong. By the time I began preparing for the procedure in earnest I had reached a state of pseudo-acceptance that sprang more from simple denial than from any type of mature coping mechanisms.
“Nothing was wrong” I told myself “what, me worry?”
I stayed up late at night pouring over how utterly unconcerned I was with the situation. I began sighing at unfortunate times during conversations just to demonstrate how very relaxed I was.
The diagnostic procedure showed no cancerous, or even cancer-like, material. I was asked how I let what should have been a simple complaint go until it manifested such significant symptoms. A course of treatment was suggested that worked. In very little time I was both real symptom, and fake cancer free.
Though denial did work for me in this situation I think I could have done a much better job of using it. I have embarked on a concerted denial training regimen.
I have been developing “denial intervals”. In these I simply deny an emotionally hurtful situation outright and then steadfastly deny any corroborating evidence that hints at the existance of the emotionally hurtful situation. I do this for just long enough that I begin to question the nature of my emotional aptitude (an 8.5 on a scale of 10) and then I relax by ignoring the emotional pain until I recover enough to begin the active denial again. I have not hit uppon an optimum number of repetitions as I have not really mastered the transition into acceptance.
Despite my lack of emotional coordination the training is working. I could now have my heart ripped from my chest, salted, and pounded flat with a meat tenderizing mallet; only to remark: “It needed to be aired out a bit”.
Of course nothing like that is remotely possible.