We all have a natural inclination to rearrange our experiences to fit a
positive image of ourselves. This manipulation allows us to preserve our
personal integrity, and makes us feel secure. It goes on undetected because
it takes place in the private corners of your mind.
When the demands of life require capabilities
that seem to exceed our resources, when we feel the threat of loss and
exposure, we experience anxiety. In an effort to avoid the pain of anxiety,
we practice the deceptive art of denial.
Denial is an unrealistic hope that a problem
is not really happening, and will go away of itself. It is an attempt to
put distance between ourselves and our experience, and protect ourselves
from the threat of danger. In its many forms, denial acts like a pain reliever.
The practice of denial is an attempt to ease the discomfort of anxiety
by a subtle and ingenious twist of attention.
Denial can become your worst enemy. It diverts your attention, and decreases
your mental efficiency by way of trade off. As long as you refuse to accept
the truth of your situation, you must of necessity, refuse to give it your
attention. Instead you will pay attention to every possible manner of distraction
you can employ to support your denial.
Are You Guilty Of Deceiving Yourself?
is a major thread in the fabric of adult traumatic brain injury. You may
be unstrung by your bizarre experiences, as well as your inability to re-arrange
them in a way that fits with your self concept, and at the same time, refuse
to admit to yourself that they are happening.
In an attempt to relieve yourself of the anxiety
you feel, you may enter into a conspiracy with yourself, the conspiracy
of denial. You may blame incidents of distortion on being "tired, irritated,
ill, distracted, forgetful, etc." When this does not relieve the anxiety,
you may focus on your neurological symptoms, or the aches and pains of
your body. Or, you may blame other people, or other things for you problems.
Family, friends, job, traffic, or the weather may become convenient targets
for your anger and frustration. You may even resort to desperate measures
to reassure yourself that you are real, and that your responses are reasonable
and rational. Other such measures attempt to keep others from discovering
the "truth" about you.
Denial is a natural, human, self defense mechanism.
Denial allows us to buy time to adjust to the shock of injury or loss.
However, the practice of denial beyond a reasonable period of adjustment
increases the risk of greater injury and losses. Brain injury impairments
do not go away by themselves just because you do not want to face them
in your self. They take their toll on your life whether or not you have
a clue as to what caused them.
You may reach a point when you can no longer
ignore, rationalize or justify your experiences, and your behavior does
not make sense. In the face of mounting evidence that something is very
wrong, you may turn to others for reassurance. You will hope that they
can define what is real for you, and help you recover your old reality.
At this point, the sane world of family, friends, doctors and society,
for reasons of their own, may join you in a mad dance of denial. If you
do not understand what is going on, it can make you feel very "crazy."
Denial Among Family And Friends
relationships are complicated. Sometimes, family and friends fail to be
truly supportive because they are in denial. We have pointed out that there
are many types of denial, and many circumstances in which denial occurs.
We have cautioned that denial is deadly and can sabotage your program of
self-management. Regardless of the reason, denial follows the same pattern.
It draws attention away from the problem, and focuses it on some diversion,
a red herring.
Your family members or friends may sense that you
are substantially different than you were before your brain injury. They
may feel anxiety about your ability to have the same meaning for them in
a relationship, and may not quite understand your condition, or your needs.
They may even deny that you have a real problem,
and tell you your symptoms are imaginary, the result of emotional, or psychiatric
problems. Additionally, they might hold the belief that your odd behavior
is volitional or willful, designed to elicit sympathy. They may be as confused,
uncertain and frightened as you are about the changes in you, and the way
in which you behave.
It is terribly difficult to accept change in
the people we love. If your mental capabilities, behavior, or general attitude
have altered substantially, your family and friends might be afraid that
you will always be that way. They might even go so far as to blame themselves
for the injury itself. They might feel responsible for the changes they
see in your behavior, feelings, attitude and overall personality.
They might blame themselves for not being able
to make things right for you. They might fear that you will be a burden
because of the cost, or inconvenience your condition imposes, and then
feel badly for feeling that way. They might harbor doubts and reservations
about the effectiveness of the treatments you are following.
If you are in denial yourself, and seeking
relief from your anxiety, you may unwittingly perpetuate the deception.
That way you do not have to focus on taking responsibility for yourself.
Denial around you can cause you to lose track of your goals, and may encourage
you to be careless or inattentive about adhering to your self-management
program. When you sense denial in family members or friends, you must make
an effort to find out what it is about, and how your can ease their fears.
Sometimes what feels like denial is in fact
symptomatic of inadequate communication skills. Serious misunderstandings
can be overcome by straightforward talk. Explain how you feel, what you
want and need from them, and what they can expect from you in return. Avoid
the trap of expecting people to automatically know and anticipate your
needs. When that little voice in your head tells you, "they are dumb,"
for not knowing what you need, ask yourself whether you have told them
clearly, logically, and unemotionally, the things you want them to consider
is an unrealistic hope that a problem is not really happening and will
go away by itself. Measure
your denial quotient below.