Our Capacity for Denial Is Huge


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Why do we seem to have an endless ability to fool ourselves with lies? Because we have practiced denial for so long. That is the only reason. It’s not because there is something inherently wrong with us. It’s just that we were never taught how things get stronger. Our thought habits grow more entrenched and seemingly “normal” with practice. In fact, anything we put our attention on, and energy into, will grow whether it is something wanted or not wanted.

 

This morning, returning from a walk in Central Park with my Golden retriever Sugar Bear, I saw a middle-aged man ambling down the sidewalk ahead of me, smoking a cigarette to the very dregs of tobacco. He tossed the lit stub into the street and began coughing, then he swilled from his coffee cup as if to stop the cough, and went into his apartment building.

 

Let’s imagine this conversation:

 

Doctor:  Sir, smoking is causing your cough.

Man: No it’s not. I must’ve picked up that cold that’s going around.

Doctor: Smoking causes cancer. You really should quit cigarettes.

Man: No worries. I’ll quit before I’m at risk.

 

Future scholars will marvel at our capacity for denial, as evidenced by the remnants they’ll study of our lifestyle. Pollution caused by man. Deliberate ingestion of over-processed foods and inhumanely “farmed” animals (by the way, animals don’t grow from seeds like corn and wheat do, they are sentient mammals, fish and fowl. Pet owners would never do to their beloved dogs and cats and hamsters and koi and parrots what goes on behind the scenes in the food industry.)

 

What are you denying in your own life? A bad relationship you put up with, out of fear that you’ll never find something better? A job you hate but stick with for the same reason?

 

There’s always something that we mentally push away as if it will go away if we put off dealing with it. Instead, the very pushing makes it stronger, and it begins to eat away at us inside, like a cancer.

Make a list of the incompletions, the things you know are important to take care of that you keep shuffling to the side. The more we can take care of those things, the freer we feel inside. And with that freedom comes a more enlightened and joyful way of living.