Ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand. However, that is an apt image for what happens when we try to deny our troubles instead of dealing with them.
Denial is a common defense mechanism for avoiding facts that make us uncomfortable. In the short term, it can be constructive if it helps us to gradually come to terms with upsetting news.
Troubles arise when our refusal to face reality becomes chronic. Then, the activities and excuses we use to try to cover up our situation start to backfire. We often wind up making our difficulties even worse.
To make progress, it’s important to move past denial. If you’re feeling stuck, try these practical suggestions.
General Principles for Moving Past Denial
You can be in denial about anything from disturbing health symptoms to signs that your partner may be unfaithful. While the circumstances may differ, the remedies usually have a lot in common.
Try these techniques to move forward:
- Keep a journal. Denial is often unconscious. Practices like journaling and meditation can help you to become more aware of your choices and how they’re affecting your life.
- Consider other perspectives. In order to maintain your illusions, you may be shutting out opposing views. The next time someone offers you feedback, listen with an open mind even if you disagree.
- Examine your assumptions. Many patterns are formed in childhood when we have less power and fewer options. Reassess your core beliefs to see if they work for you or against you.
- Manage stress. You’ll be less vulnerable to denial if you reduce daily tensions. Relax with physical exercise and deep breathing.
- Talk things over. Discussing your thoughts and feelings is another effective alternative to denial. Turn to family members and friends you can trust with sensitive subjects.
- Join a support group. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable interacting with others who are going through similar experiences. Your doctor or a local hospital can help you find a wide variety of resources.
- Try therapy. If you need further assistance, professional counseling may be an option. A therapist can help you to understand your behavior and develop new coping strategies.
- Reach out. What if someone close to you is in denial? While they need to make their own decisions, you can let them know you’ll support their efforts when they’re ready to take action.
Specific Examples of Moving Past Denial
Some forms of denial are more common or serious than others.
Check to see if any of these events are relevant for you:
- Treat addictions. Acknowledging your situation is the first step to recovery. If you’re unable to control excessive drinking or other habits that are disrupting your life, help is available. Call a community hotline or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- See your doctor. Denial can prevent you from getting the treatment you need for cancer and other serious conditions. Remember that early detection often increases your chances for living longer and resuming an active life.
- Strengthen relationships. Romantic relationships and family ties often trigger intense emotions. Dealing with conflicts directly can draw you closer together.
- Watch your weight. More than 42% of Americans are obese, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control. If you’ve been ignoring your waistline, open your eyes by weighing yourself each day and using an app to track how much you eat and exercise.
- Limit your spending. Denial can affect your finances too. For help with sticking to your budget, see what tools are available through your employer, credit union, and bank. Some credit counseling agencies offer free services too.
Have the courage and wisdom to embrace the truth rather than living in denial. You’ll experience less stress and enjoy more success.