Monday, May 7, 2012

Denial: Pretending Everything Is Okay Doesn't Mean Everything Is Okay

Most of the time denial is not helpful. Sometimes it is. Denial can actually save a life or at least a person's sanity, for awhile, when that person is living with abuse on a daily basis like many children do.

Using denial to leave the abuse behind at home helped me to feel safe each day when I went to school. I always loved going to school. I hated summers and holidays that I couldn't go to school.

I had teachers who cared about me and helped me to feel proud that I could excel at something and make good grades. I didn't get that praise and acknowledgment at home.

On the other hand, those same teachers didn't recognise that I was being abused at home. I had no physical signs of abuse on my body but even if I had, I don't know that the teachers could have or would have done anything about the incest in the 1950's and 1960's in America. A man had more freedom then to do as he pleased with his wife and children and often the law would not intervene. The awareness of abuse just wasn't there or if it was, it was rarely acted upon.

Pretending that everything is okay when it isn't, as an adult, is not helpful most of the time. The very same denial, that protected me as a child, worked against me as an adult. Denial comes at a high cost to the human body and mind.

Holding back emotions, hiding from memories, refusing to see the abuse that is going on or went on in the past - all of these can cause stress that wears out the body and harms the mind of the victim. I didn't know how much energy it took to hold on to my denial until I let go of it.

Holding in emotions rather than feeling them takes tremendous mental control. Your body carries all of that stress whether you want to accept it or not. The stress of shutting down emotionally can do harm in the physical realm of the body by causing symptoms like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and many other conditions.

If you are in denial, stop. Give your mind and body a break. You deserve to have a full life. That doesn't happen when you are in denial. For you to heal, and you are definitely worth taking the time and effort to heal, the denial must go. Yes, letting go of the denial, initially, hurts more. That stage doesn't last. You can get past the hurt. You can survive feeling the hurt. Then as you let go of the hurt, through feeling it, you will heal.

As you heal, joy and peace become a possibility that you can open yourself up to. Ask any survivor/thriver, if letting go of the denial and feeling the pain was worth what they have today. They will tell you that it was. Please do this for yourself. You are worth it.

Related Articles:

Resources For An Incest Survivor And Adult Children Of Dysfunctional Families @

Childhood Memories @

Dialogues With Dignity And 22 Ways To Love Yourself @


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! I love your distinction about the usefulness of denial when we are powerless vs. the problem of denial when we are able to act as grownups.

My memoir, The River of Forgetting, is all about the dance with denial and the recovery of lost memories.

My Best to you, Patricia, and thanks for your work,

Patricia Singleton said...

Jane, thank you. Everything you hear about denial usually shows it as bad for you. When I was a child and powerless, like you said, denial had its purpose in saving my life. As an adult, denial caused many problems for me. I would recommend your book The River of Forgetting to all of my readers.

Pam said...

Hi Patricia, I hate denial! My family of origin uses this to the point that they live in a complete fantasy world. To me, denial is the biggest road block to healing.


Patricia Singleton said...

Pam, I agree with you. Denial is the biggest weapon that our abusers and sometimes our families can use against us in our struggle to heal. Denial is at its worst when we ourselves are in it. Until the self-denial is stripped away, we don't heal. We have to accept that we need to heal before healing can start to happen. Many families continue to live in denial long after we, the survivor has chosen to heal. Sometimes putting distance between ourselves and our families is needed for our protection when the family refuses to face their own denial.

Intrepid Song said...

Thanks for this. On a journey of healing for more than 20 years, though lately things have surfaced...but coupled with good things, like finally graduating from college (after being told I would never be able to do so) and being recognized by BlogHer as a 2012 Voice of the Year. These good things seem to come with a deep sadness...a grief of sorts...and as I sit her on the couch, I realize this exhaustion I am feeling is due to denying the grief. If tears of grief are mixed among the tears of what?....and how let it out makes room for more goodness....goodness that I am not yet used to embracing. I am grateful for your space in the Web...Happy Blogging Anniversary.

Patricia Singleton said...

Kimberly, You are very welcome. Welcome to my blog. Congratulations on the 2012 Voice of the Year Award from BlogHer.

I have come to realize, for myself, that new issues sometimes come up because I am ready to deal with them now when I wasn't in the past. That is growth. Tears are healing.

Thank you for the Happy Blogging Anniversary wishes. I invite you to come visit and leave comments again.