There are many ways by which humans cope with life and defend themselves from the myriad of problems that they face or would face in the long run. These methods, generally known as defence mechanisms, basically help you reduce anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful incentives. They tell you how people distance themselves from a full awareness of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Some of these method include: Dissociation, adjusting expectations, humour, acting out, displacement, and so much more. Of all these, denial happens to be the worst of the bunch.
Here’s a line from Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’.
“Denial is a critical part of the human coping mechanism. Without it, we would wake up terrified every morning about all the ways we could die. Instead, our minds block out existential fears by focussing on stresses we can handle – like getting to work on time, or paying our taxes. If we have wider, existential fears, we jettison them very quickly, refocussing on simple tasks and daily trivialities.”
Denial simply explains how we ignore things that we do not want to think of or focus on. Usually subconscious, it is a form of repression of the things we cannot handle. It might not sound like a big deal, but one way or the other, it is. Your mind bans stressful thoughts and picks only the things it can handle; it accepts good news and puts blame on others for bad news.
There are too many problems that plague humans from far and wide on a daily basis. Pain, Death, Suffering; however, rather than think of the imminent possibilities of these things befalling us, we create excuses for them. For instance, smokers know that when they smoke, they are liable to die younger, but they supress those thoughts and hold on to any glimpse of hope they can find – ‘some smokers do live long’.
It is how people know that there is a possibility that they could contract STDs when they have unprotected sex, but still do it anyway. Sometimes, it is as simple as the basic truth that we all know that we are going to die at some point in our lives, but we choose to supress it with the idea that it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It is why we choose to focus on “YOLO” and ignore the fact that the end of us could be just minutes away. Accidents happen, but they would not just happen to us… right?
With the tons of bad news that flood the internet as well as news streams on a daily basis, it is truly much easier to ignore killings and focus on entertainment. However, denial is still an act of supressing the truth. While it might seem like the best thing to do sometimes, it makes us easy targets. The best excuse is that of positivity. With the books and ted talks emphasizing the need for ignoring the negatives, denial has now evolved from what our subconscious does to something we train our minds to do. Just so we do not ‘call them to ourselves’.
The diverse explanations pro-denial and against it, move from one topic to another. How do we defend ourselves from the ills of the world in order to prevent depression? Indeed, with maturity comes a broader and calmer approach with dealing with life’s truths. The world might not be a safe place but we cannot be paranoid over it or completely avoid it. With this in mind, balance then comes to play. You cannot afford to lie in the sand and pretend all is well, and you also cannot focus on danger.
There is a thin line between denial and positivity. True positive thinking is not the absence of negative thoughts but a level of fearless awareness required to take precaution and seek help where need be. So while positive thinking says you are well even when you apparently are not, it is denial that makes you ignore the problem without seeking help before it is too late.
How can you differentiate them? Well, denial does not feel good because the problems are supressed; however, with positive thinking, there is a calmness and a level of serenity that comes with accepting the reality of the wrongs but choosing to stay happy regardless.