Denial is a sneaky state of mind that affects all of us more often than we realize.
While we're all familiar with the concept of denial in regards to substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a mortal illness, it can also strike at other times. Perhaps we didn’t get a promotion we'd worked for, or a friend wasn’t there when we needed them, or a romantic relationship has ended. Or it could be something as trivial as someone cut in front of us in line or criticized us.
Our reactions to life’s whiplash usually sound something like this:
- I can’t believe they...
- This was supposed to...
- I didn’t plan for this to happen.
- It could have been....
- This should have...
- How can this be?
- It never had to come to this.
Like forensic analysts, we examine all aspects of the crime scene. Did I? Did they? We mull things over, desperate to understand the cause-and-effect connection.
We can unknowingly stay in this state for weeks, months, even years, churning through what we know and guessing at what we don’t. All the while, denial slyly guides our actions. We can hope for the relationship to be rekindled, work harder to prove ourselves as a viable professional, or make excuses for our friend’s absence.
As the pain festers, it can drag us down to an abyss of depression, anger, and sadness as we mourn what we thought would happen and what actually did.
When a truth has been revealed and we refuse to accept it, we end up fighting a battle between the fairytale that what was supposed to be and what the reality is. We’re at odds with life and this silent, cognitive quarrel only makes things worse. Denial prevents us from moving forward by keeping us in the past, believing an event or a person had the potential to be something other than they were.
Denial is a state of unease, or dis-ease. (Yes, disease.) It’s one of the most unhealthy, toxic conditions we can ever be in because we carry around the tension from an unresolved emotional conflict, which can block us from receiving joy, gratitude
, and love.
The good news is, we have the power to free ourselves when we’re burrowing down in the depths of despair. Here’s how:
1. Let yourself mourn.
Let yourself feel what’s hurt you and express it. Write it down. Do everything you can to identify what is specifically bothering you. The yogic sage Osho says, “Repression brings obsession.” You can’t dismiss or pretend it away. It’s a necessary transition to get you to the other side.
2. Accept it.
Right down to your very core, receive it. Yes, the unthinkable happened and now we have to adjust what we believe. Noticing a sense of disappointment can be a sign to reevaluate a perception we had. Denial is a graveyard for expectations and hopes. Someone or something has shown us their truth, their capacity. It is what it is. Take this knowledge and figure out your next step based on this reality.
3. Practice gratitude.
Life may seem to hinge on this one thing but there are other miracles going on around you. Perhaps in your mourning state your favorite ice cream is on sale at the exact time you need it. Maybe someone unexpected is extra kind. Continue to notice what else is happening, any loving vibes that are being sent your way. The universe is moving you into the exact place you need to be.
4. Get moving.
Going to the gym may feel like a feat, but do anything to get out of bed or off the couch. We all know energy is infectious, even when it’s our own. Go for a walk, take a restorative yoga class
, or eat out at a restaurant. Be kind to yourself.
5. Get creative.
Focusing your energy on anything crafty is a great distraction and can open us up to new inspiration. Maybe it’s time to make a new vision board, paint a room, try cooking a new recipe, or take up a foreign language. A fresh novelty can shift the mind from a highly-charged analytical state to a lower, more primal sensory state.
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