The Comfort – and Wisdom – of DenialBy Emma Pearson
February 28, 2024
Main image by Quliyeva Efsane on Unsplash
10 October 2022
I have been reflecting on Denial.
I realise that I have come to value, appreciate, love and respect Denial.
Not as a blanket approach to life, but as a bit of a cosy corner to hide away in from time to time. Or even longer periods of time.
A refuge. A place for some peace and quiet for reflection.
A place to pretend things are normal, if only for a while. A place to recover, self-soothe, rebuild strength, self-nurture, before re-emerging into this world – so horrendous and horrific at times for me (and permanently horrendous and horrific for so many people).
Denial, though not like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
Nor like the monkey covering its eyes.
But Denial as a bit of a health spa.
For I believe that Denial has a healthy, wise component to it.
I think that Denial serves as a bit of a pit stop. A place to stop and breathe for a while, before going back out into the fray.
The problem with Denial is that it can become a trap. A permanent place to reside. Which is no good. When in that place, we forget too much.
We forget that there are myriad wars going on. That the planet is burning up beyond repair. Or that we are alive for just an infinitesimally short period of time in the grand scheme of things. And live life, like the aforementioned ostrich, with our heads in the sand, for too much of our lives.
But living life at the other extreme of the Denial polarity – in full and constant awareness, layers of skin scraped off, and permanently feeling into all of one’s pain, and all of the pain of the world – is no use either.
In that place, there is only Exhaustion. All strength drained away. Creativity and resourcefulness long evaporated. Useless.
So stepping, wading, or even just dipping, in and out of Denial, to get a bit of respite, before heading back into Pain and Reality, makes total sense to me.
But how can we coax someone out of Denial who might be spending too long there? And who is to judge what “too long” might be?
How can we invite people to look at what their lifestyle does to the planet without shaming and blaming them?
How can we encourage people to remember that their worries could truly be far more gigantic – let’s just take a look around you for a moment – without them feeling dismissed as a result?
How can we coax people to take a look at the years they are wasting, half living, because of not enjoying their work and/or primary relationship?
And, at the other end of the scale, how can we encourage Grieflings to step away from the Pain into a new way of living, without them feeling that now they need to somehow minimise, or deny, what has happened in their lives?
And wherever we stand on the polarity, how do we not spiral into despair, but instead gather strength to act in more courageous ways, when we choose to spend less time in Denial?
I have bits of answers that work for me – but it’s not a tried and tested recipe. Here are some of my ingredients:
I need mentors. People who inspire me.
I need a community of people who “get” me. Or even just one person.
I need to know (of) people who have it worse and still get up and shake up the world.
I need regular doses of joy. Lashings of joy.
I need beauty in my life.
I need skills for keeping things in perspective.
I need to believe, in my heart of hearts, that while I like to think that I matter, I really don’t. Certainly what I worry about, what I believe, how I live, doesn’t matter. Not in the grand scheme of things.
And yet, each and every day, I need to show up.
To live as well as I can. To try to be kind. To try to be the best version of myself. To try to make a difference in this crazy world.
Even if it won’t make a jot of difference.
And it’s hard. Because I’ve come to realise that I rather like to hang out in Denial. It’s so cosy, warm, soothing and welcoming.
It makes living easier.
It puts a sheen on life. It puts a sheen on pain.
I need a sheen on life. I need a sheen on pain.
I think we all do.