The Many Faces of Denial: It’s Not Just a River In Narcissistville
For much of my life I lived in a state of denial. Much of it was created by the Narcissists in my life, but a lot of it was self-induced.
Sometimes denial is just not knowing any better. It’s the state of having doubt, but not having the tools, or the experience to be more discerning.
There are different types of denial. Narcissist Induced Denial, Self-Induced Denial and a Lack of Experience type of Denial.
Narcissist Induced Denial
A Narcissist’s power comes from their ability to make you doubt your senses. They like to keep you in the dark, because they fear if you knew the truth you would leave. The longer they can keep you guessing, the more control they have over you. This is the reason behind why they lie and use gaslighting and projection to keep control over their victims. By creating a smoke and mirrors type of environment you will remain confused and off balance.
But what happens in those moments of clarity, where you actually see the truth and you choose to ignore it? This then, is no longer about them manipulating you, this becomes about you manipulating yourself. When the truth is ugly and paints us in a bad light, sometimes our ego needs to dress it up into something it isn’t. We then have to lie to ourselves to make it more palatable to our sensibilities.
I have several clients, who are with men, who they know have girlfriends or wives. These are cases of willful denial, because what they tell themselves to justify continuing the relationship is baffeling to everyone including themselves. These aren’t cases where the object of their obsession is feeding them lies about a future together. These women know where they stand. They just have an uncanny ability to turn off their morality switch, because I can guarantee you that if you pulled every ‘other woman’ aside and had a serious discussion with them, about cheating, most would tell you that they believe it’s wrong and that they wouldn’t willfully engage in it. But they do – Why?
Reasons We are Willfully Blind
- We don’t want to do anything to change our circumstances, because doing nothing is easier than doing something.
- We are content with the way things are even though they are pretty awful.
- We like to live in fantasy land, because in fantasy land we can make things exactly how we want them to be and base our reality loosely on the truth.
- We are addicted and we’ll do anything to keep ourselves blind as long as we get our fix.
- Fear of change, fear of being alone, fear of being destitute, fear of having nothing to obsess about.
Lack of Experience Denial
Sometimes it’s our lack of experience that keeps us in denial. When people behave in ways that we have never encountered before, we have great difficulty coming up with an explanation for it. If you tack on the issues codependents live with, you’ll find someone who willfully accepts blame and any and all responsibility for other people’s wrongdoing.
When we are in a relationship with someone and they are angry with us and they are yelling at us – if we have low self-esteem and we don’t know our own worth, it’s going to make perfect sense that we must have done something to set the other person off, because they wouldn’t be so upset otherwise, right?
Being in denial is really a symptom of something else. If we looked really closely, this is a line that we can easily draw straight back to childhood. When we are children and we are being yelled at and blamed by our care givers our ability to process information correctly is immature. Our schemas and how we fit into the world are just being developed and we don’t have proper ways of coping with other people’s baggage. Children have an uncanny ability to make everything their fault. So if you are trained to believe that you are always at fault, for the moods and behaviors of others, as a child, you will carry that belief with you into adulthood.
Awareness is the first step to battling denial. Being mindful of what is going on around you, how your significant other is behaving, how you are reacting to it and processing it, is key. If there is a little voice inside of you that is saying, “Something is wrong here,” you have to listen to it because too often if you live in denial you’ve stifling that voice and shoved into the back of the closet to deal with later. When you are dealing with a situation, or an entire relationship that just doesn’t feel right, you have to ask yourself these questions:
- What are the facts? And be really honest with yourself.
- If I had nothing riding on this – no emotional investment – would my perception be any different?
- Is my partner over reacting?
- Is this really my fault?
- Am I being purposely misled?
- Is there a pattern in my relationships where everything that goes wrong is always my fault?
Just because someone is lying to you or trying to manipulate you doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Once you know the truth, you have to act accordingly. This is where boundaries come into play. When you can’t trust yourself and you feel weak when battling your feelings, trust your boundaries. Draw your line in the sand before you enter into every relationship, so that you instantly know without having to question whether or not someone’s behavior has crossed the line. Denial is a dangerous place to be because it keeps us stagnant and ripe for further abuse. Listen to the facts and trust your instincts. If it feels wrong it probably is.
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