Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is Denying Denial Still Denial?

NYtimes has an interesting article up about denial.

"recent studies from fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology suggest that the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships. The psychological tricks that people use to ignore a festering problem in their own households are the same ones that they need to live with everyday human dishonesty and betrayal, their own and others’. And it is these highly evolved abilities, research suggests, that provide the foundation for that most disarming of all human invitations, forgiveness.

In this emerging view, social scientists see denial on a broader spectrum — from benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness — on the part of couples, social groups and organizations, as well as individuals. Seeing denial in this way, some scientists argue, helps clarify when it is wise to manage a difficult person or personal situation, and when it threatens to become a kind of infectious silent trance that can make hypocrites of otherwise forthright people."

On a tangential denial topic...

I can remember after my sister died a lot of people informing me about the stages of grief, the first being denial, and thinking at the time that denial was a pretty stupid term since I didn't deny what had happened, but it seemed applicable in that I wasn't quite ready to say that I had accepted what had happened. The days following her death felt very surreal and it took me a long time to get through the denial stage and in some ways I guess I felt better in the denial stage because it offered sanctuary from the acceptance stage that almost inevitably follows (as it is incredibly difficult to maintain the mask of denial in the ugly face of reality). When, every morning their missing from the breakfast table, everyday they're not at school with you, every afternoon they don't come home, and every evening they're missing from the dinner table and their seat sits empty and stares blankly back at you.

For me I felt like I wasn't emancipated from this type of grief until I accepted the fact that what had happened happened and now belonged to the past, and not to the forefront of my thoughts. If you don't relegate these traumatic experiences to memory I think it really afflicts your daily activities and the overall outcome of each and every day. You start to feel like every today is the same as yesterday, and the day before, and every tomorrow will be like today, so you sort of have nothing to look forward to because you feel like your future has been taken away. You become a resentful resistentialist, shrewd and even misanthropic, unable to change your ways and not willing to try. Until you realize that sorrow and despair are two very useless emotions...which certainly don't lead to happiness, but instead lead to the cessation of activity, which can be very dangerous indeed. But it took me sometime before I realized this.

As it became clearer and clearer to me that I was not making much progress on the happiness front I attempted to radically change my thinking and engage in more activities--preoccupations to take my mind off my grief. It works, but its a damn slow process. Taking up an interest in the world and trying to figure it out was what helped stimulate me most, but I'm sure its not the same for everybody. But if you can find some hobby, some activity that you find enjoyable or pleasurable that's key, because it's something that you control and something that can never be taken away. That was how I escaped the gravity of grief, but some aren't as lucky and others cannot relate, because for some it is simply biological, while others psychological, but it seems like everyone has to deal with depression to some extent and sharing personal experiences and offering solutions I think is worthwhile. We shouldn't isolate our experience thinking that we alone bear a certain burden, rather we should share it with others and try to provide (silly metaphor alert) road maps from our own bush whacking experience of personal exploration that can help others navigate the rough terrain much better. Anyways that's just my two cents.

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