Denial

December 12, 2014

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Any­time we deny our feel­ings we set our­selves up for a vic­tim per­spec­tive. Feel­ings are real. They are “energy-in-motion.” When we dis­count or under­mine our emo­tions we end up over­taken by them, becom­ing impul­sive reac­tors. We can’t take respon­si­bil­ity for our­selves when we refuse to acknowl­edge our feel­ings, which means that these dis­avowed “inner tyrants” will go on dri­ving our behav­ior from behind the scenes.

Although it is true that our feel­ings are gen­er­ated by what we believe, feel­ings are nonethe­less impor­tant. They alert us when we are think­ing unhappy thoughts; feel­ing “bad,” for instance, lets us know we are think­ing a most unhappy, pos­si­bly dis­torted, belief. Instead of deny­ing the feel­ing, we learn to fol­low the feel­ing in to the belief behind it. This is where true inter­ven­tion is pos­si­ble. The feel­ing dis­si­pates once the belief behind it is made con­scious and addressed. We learn to rec­og­nize that our feel­ings are what point us to the lim­it­ing beliefs that are keep­ing us stuck on the triangle.

Par­ents who never learned that feel­ings fol­low thought and who grew up with­out per­mis­sion to acknowl­edge or express feel­ings often deny their chil­dren the same right. They may have decided early in life that cer­tain feel­ings are wrong or bad, so they deny and repress them with­out exam­in­ing the rul­ing thoughts behind the feelings.

Telling our­selves that our feel­ings are unac­cept­able does not make them go away. As long as we con­tinue to attach belief to painful sto­ries about our­selves and oth­ers we will go on gen­er­at­ing these same neg­a­tive feel­ings. When sup­pressed, these denied emo­tions become secret pock­ets of shame within the psy­che. They only serve to alien­ate us from oth­ers and sen­tence us to a life on the triangle.

Some­times we deny feel­ings in an ill-fated attempt to avoid feel­ing bad. Per­haps we tell our­selves that we can’t han­dle our feel­ings, that they are too much for us. We may think we are at the mercy of our own mis­ery because we don’t know from where these feel­ings come or what to do with, or about them. Maybe it is bet­ter to stay away from these messy inner states under such circumstances.

But when we know that it’s our thoughts that pro­duce painful feel­ings; that indeed our unhappy feel­ings act as gate­ways into greater under­stand­ing of our­selves — then we no longer have the need to sup­press uncom­fort­able feel­ings. Until we are able rec­og­nize and grasp the impli­ca­tions of these sim­ple truths how­ever, we may go on try­ing to escape pain using var­i­ous sup­pres­sion tac­tics. These attempts at avoid­ance only keep us stuck with dysfunctional behaviour patterns where the guar­an­teed out­come is suf­fer­ing and misery. Getting honest with yourself is the basic requirement for getting unstuck from dysfunctional patterns of behaviour.

Of course, when feel­ings are denied, hon­esty is impos­si­ble. Remem­ber that denial comes out of neg­a­tive self judg­ment. If we have decided on some level that we can­not accept our thoughts, behav­ior or feel­ings then, chances are, we will not be able to admit we have them. It’s too painful to admit some­thing about our­selves that we have judged as unac­cept­able. We must prac­tice self accep­tance if we are truly going to be able to be hon­est with our­selves and others.