Ever notice how common denial is, and how quickly we blame others for our failings, our sorrows, and or losses. We blame others for firing us, dumping us, taking advantage of us, basically screwing up our lives. “They, she, he did this to me!” “If they only paid me more, accepted me more, approved of me more, gave me more, did more for me.”
The fear of accepting responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions is so great, so debilitating that we blame, point the finger, and deny in the name of preserving our pride, our fragile egos, which most likely influenced where we are in the first place.
I’m not talking about blaming that occurs as a natural response to the gut-wrenching grief we feel in response to losses that are out of our control; catastrophic events, accidents, weather, natural causes, the unexplainable happenstances that only theory can attempt to explain. Or, the losses where we fall prey to because of the hateful, demoralizing, anti-social behavior of others that lack even a smidgeon of conscience and compassion for human life.
I’m talking about the fear and blame that we inflict on others and ourselves because we deny what is inside us, our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors or actions. There’s safety in denial…and deeply damaging consequences. Denial is like looking through a bug-splattered windshield. Visibility is hindered. It’s hard to see where you’re going. You might miss your exit, an obstacle in the way, or your life.
I remember the day that I accepted responsibility for the failure of my first marriage and stopped denying. I was out on a run processing the unraveling. Of course, I blamed my husband, “He did this, he didn’t do that.” This type of mind chatter proved fruitless and perpetuated a cycle of blame and denial. It was when I shifted my focus from him to me that deeper insight started emerging. As I approached mile seven, it became clear that the choices I had, or had not, made in our relationship contributed as much as his choices to the crumbling of our marriage. No matter what he did or didn’t do, I, too, did and didn’t do.
Likewise, continuing to do the same expecting different results will not get us what we want. We might believe that if we do more and give more that we’ll start to see different results. For example, when we can’t sleep, we stay in bed trying to sleep. We toss and turn, and work ourselves into a frenzy that does little to help us drift into slumber. Why don’t we get up? Why don’t we try something different? If you know a burner is hot, would you keep your hand on it?
We see this in work places where employees work harder and do more for less, expecting the larger systems to recognize them, value them, and reward them for their efforts. We see this in relationships where partners make conscious efforts to do more with each other or buy each other more things in hopes of strengthening their relationships. Yet, they avoid talking about their relationship, deeply, and uncovering any pink elephants in the room. Pouring more water on a grease fire will not put it out.
Using or not using our voices, and ears, in ways that meet our needs and the needs of others will not alter our relational or systemic environments. Stuffing, walking away, yelling, throwing objects, manipulating, pouting, using violence or our myriad of defenses and denials will not get us what we want, or get us what we want in humane ways that strengthen relationships. Likewise, listening while spacing out, checking our cell phones, doing the grocery list, or filtering their words will not provide others with what they need either.
If I’m supposed to be listening, I need to check that. Am I listening through my self-serving, egocentric agenda? Or is something else distracting me from hearing the voices in my life that have resorted to screaming, or some other form of attention-seeking behavior, in order to possibly be heard? Am I living in denial or through assumptions? What is preventing me from listening, from hearing?
If I’m trying to communicate, I need to check that. Is my form of screaming getting me what I want or need? If it is, carry on, even though I worry about your nervous system long term. If screaming is not serving you, why are you still doing it? What are you denying? Why do we keep doing the same expecting something different to happen, something to change?
We’ve got big issues in our relationships, systems, and society. People feel unheard, they’re angry and in pain, and we’re still not listening. We might try to listen, but, our interpretations are way off base. We hear what we want to hear, too afraid to acknowledge what the words are telling us. I think we listen through our own filters much more than through the actual, raw, and real lived experiences of others. We use our assumptions as sources of comfort, too afraid to remove the mask of denial. We keep doing the same expecting different something different.
Although it takes time, patience, and perseverance, change can start today, right now. Change starts with me looking in the mirror and getting real with my assumptions, my denials, and my fears, all of me, my truth. Start a practice of having frequent, daily conversations with yourself, and get real with the truth, not your assumptions. Truth, the hard truth, dissolves denial.
Loosening the mask of denial is a process and a practice. I like you use meditation to check my truth, either lying down, sitting, or walking. You might prefer journaling or writing as a way to get real with you and denial. The important thing is to do it; it doesn’t matter how.
As you create a different relationship with you, begin getting real with a friend, partner, loved one, colleague, neighbor, or co-worker. Practice getting real with people. If they talk with you, listen, deeply. Give them your full, unfiltered attention. When you respond, make sure you feel heard. The interaction is intended to be reciprocal. Pay attention. Check yourself. Check them. Hold each other accountable. Remember, truth dissolves denial.
Continue this practice, even when you’re afraid. See what begins to change within you and your relationships, or not. Meaning, some individuals in your life will adapt with ease to your new way of being. Others will balk and judge you, most likely because they’re afraid. Either way, be brave, stay true to you, and keep moving forward. The future of our families, communities, schools, workplaces, larger systems, and society and our world depends on you and me creating the change we long for.
Sending you inspiration,