It’s my life. I am not hurting anyone. Stay away from me. I do not need help. These are all phrases which we typically hear from someone which is under the influence of denial mechanism. Denial is the primary defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are mind’s immune system. According to dictionary Denial is “asserting of a statement an allegation which is not true”. By definition “denial is psychological defense system which protects the integrity of mind and personality.”
Denial is an integral part of our defensive system. Take an example of our human body which has an immune system to protect us from dangerous disease; likewise human mind also using defense mechanisms protect us from severe problematic thoughts. Our brain is programmed by the values that are integrated into our life. Brain notices anything we have assigned value to, if our values are positive brain says “This is good for me.” On the other hand brain is also programmed to notice anything that challenges or threatens our values. At the time of high stress brain get emotionally overload. In such circumstances brain active automatic defense mechanisms, one of which is denial.
Iqra Tariq serves as Clinical Psychologist at Willing ways Lahore. She had done her Masters in Applied Psychology, from Lahore Garrison University, Lahore. And graduated from Defence Degree College, Lahore. She has also worked with slow learner, autistic childrens and ADHD children in Turning Point, Lahore.She participated in various workshops on occupational therapies, stress management, autism, art therapy, positive psychology and learning disorders.
Editor:Ms. Hameeda Batool
Denial has both the advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, the major benefit of using denial is that it helps us to cope with sufferings and pain. Like in an example of severs illness, denial can be very strong and help the patient to keep hope alive by preventing him from seeing how hopeless the situation is. It is also seen in marathon. Many people experience ‘hitting the wall’ phenomena when they are somewhere around 20 miles. Professional and seasoned runners get through “the wall” by using denial. They try to ignore the real physical pain and focus on getting through the wall and complete the race.
The major disadvantage is that denial prevents us from seeing what is not right and restricts ourselves to take appropriate actions to handle the situation. In the result of this our problems get worse and we end up like victimized by our own actions. A friend of mine had serous diabetes at the age of 28. He refused to change his diet, manage his stress, or take his insulin. Why? Because he was convinced on the statement “Doctor is wrong”. He did not believe that he had diabetes. In his mind he had a ‘digestion problem’ nothing related to diabetes. He refused to manage his diabetes and kept getting sicker. Before he died his both arms and legs were imputed due to diabetes. His diabetes would have been manageable if only he could have learned to manage his denial.
The primary feelings that drive denial are pain anger, fear, guilt and shame. We can for the time being switch off these feelings by using denial. But these feeling always come back and by replacing them with denial. We will end up making it a habit as of using denial on all painful occasions.
There are many types of denial but more common ones are listed below:
- Denial of responsibility
- Denial of Impact
- Denial of Cycle
- Denial of Denial