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Denial

 

Explanations > Behaviors > Coping mechanisms > Denial

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

  

Description

Denial is simply refusing to acknowledge that an event has occurred. The person affected simply acts as if nothing has happened, behaving in ways that others may see as bizarre.

In its full form, it is totally subconscious, and sufferers may be as mystified by the behavior of people around them as those people are by the behavior of the sufferers. It may also have a significant conscious element, where the sufferer is simply 'turning a blind eye' to an uncomfortable situation.

Example

A man hears that his wife has been killed, and yet refuses to believe it, still setting the table for her and keeping her clothes and other accoutrements in the bedroom.

A person having an affair does not think about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

People take credit for their successes and find 'good reason' for their failures, blaming the situation, other people, etc.

Alcoholics vigorously deny that they have a problem.

Optimists deny that things may go wrong. Pessimists deny they may succeed.

Discussion

Denial is a form of repression, where stressful thoughts are banned from memory. If I do not think about it, then I do not suffer the associated stress have to deal with it. However, people engaging in Denial can pay a high cost in terms of the psychic energy needed to maintain the denial state.

Repression and Denial are two primary defense mechanisms which everybody uses.

Children find denial easier, as with age, the ego matures and understands more about the "objective reality" it must operate within.

Denial is one of Anna Freud's original defense mechanisms.

So what?

When you appear to deny a situation, then the other person may join you in the denial or may have to handle it in a way that is not as direct as they otherwise might.

See also

Avoidance, Compartmentalization, Idealization, Rationalization, Repression

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