One of our most primitive defense mechanisms is denial. Mark Twain perfectly captured the essence of denial when he quipped,
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
In effect, denial is an effort to avoid the pain or discomfort of reality by pretending it doesn’t exist.
It is the emotional manifestation of the ‘flight’ portion of ‘fight or flight’, the mind’s way of saying, “I don’t want to face what is being presented to me so I simply refuse to acknowledge that it exists.”
It isn’t difficult to spot denial in our day to day lives.
It’s at work in the parents who adamantly refuse to acknowledge any flaw in their child, regardless of feedback from teachers, coaches, peers, or even the child themselves. It’s present in the friends who won’t recognize the problem that alcohol or drugs are causing in their lives.
Although it may minimize emotional discomfort in the moment, living in denial also minimizes our ability to engage with the world around us, hinders healthy relationships, and compromises our credibility.