I'm not exactly certain when or why denial became such a dirty word in our western culture...I've been swimming in De Nile on many occasions and have found it to be a rather lovely dip into the waters of avoidance, procrastination, and contradiction. And those last three words aren't necessarily "dirty" either!
Denial is one of those mental states we all too often perceive as negative or maladaptive, yet for some reason we have all experienced it at one time or another in our lives. It can come in the form of simple disbelief of a fact too difficult to fully digest or it can be a complicated motivator that pushes us beyond a constraining belief we have held about ourselves. In either case, it is neither negative nor maladaptive.
Even Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identifies denial as one of the five essential stages of grief. Here's a link if you're interested:
Dr. Kubler-Ross theorized, when faced with a catastrophic loss such as death (although others have expanded her theory to include any situation we perceive as a "loss"), there are five, basic mental processes we all must pass through to achieve success in dealing with the loss or reaching the final stage, Acceptance. She revolutionized modern psychology and the process of death and dying in helping to cease the shunning of dying patients and the isolation they felt. In other words, she "normalized" the psychological process of death.
So, based on the above information, I have to believe DENIAL is not the creepy neighbor lurking next door and waiting to kill us in our sleep as soon as we turn our back on him (strange analogy I know!). We were led to believe this however, during the Self-Help Era of the 1990's when we were all in "denial" about our drinking, smoking, eating, exercising, sleeping, gambling, religious, dating, marital, and sexual habits. I am certain a self-help group was born during that time to assist all of us in getting out of "denial". We were led to believe our "denial" would ruin our lives and perhaps even kill us. But I'm here to tell you in 2006 "denial" is in fact, "normal", and I am sick and tired of it getting such bad press!
Now I DO subscribe to the notion too much of ANYTHING can be harmful. Good lord, too much sleep can kill you if all you do is lay in bed day after day! And I think everything should be taken in moderation. But what is "moderation" to one person may not be to another.
Back in the Stone Ages of my nursing school days, we used to hear a funny saying when someone came into the ER totally intoxicated, admitting they had only had one beer. Inevitably, a crusty old and worn nurse would say, "One beer, eh? And just how BIG was that beer?", sending us all into guffawing laugher out of earshot of the inebriated patient. The patient was obviously in "denial" and not adept at "moderation", or perhaps the alcohol simply made them really stupid to think the nurse would believe their tall tale!
But moderation is truly an individual thing...as is denial. And what may become seriously maladaptive to one person may not to another. So not everyone's denial is a destiny with a life lived in pain and suffering just because they didn't do it or see it yours or my way.
I am close friends with my denial. I, at times, bask in it. But one could argue if I know I am in it, is it truly "denial" then? Frankly I don't care. It has been a life saver for me.
Currently my "denial" about my impending discussion with my neurologist on Tuesday is working quite well for me. As long as I am not focused on my unknown future, I find I can be very productive. Even with my two, gimpy arms I've gotten a lot done! Heck, I'm typing THIS, aren't I? And I have successfully avoided an on slot of anxiety/fear by writing about denial for an hour...go figure.
Oh, she is such a lovely river...