14 Nov Denial – Defense
Denial is a natural human defense mechanism. For protection, we all use defenses in one way or another, especially to avoid unpleasant feelings.
I used to say that ‘Psychological Denial’ is the soul’s way of protecting itself from pain while the immune system is the body’s way of protecting itself against bacteria and viruses.
For example, if not comforted, a child exposed to pain must find a way to deal with it. So, he develops psychological defense mechanisms to cope. It is what we all did growing up.
It’s neither right or wrong or good or bad, unless one has a severe case of foggy brain where ‘Pathological Denial’ may lead to severe illness or death.
Denial is synonamous with addiction. It is the name of the game we addicts always play.
Denial results in…
One of the most primitive defenses which is to lie.
“Did you eat that?”
“No, not me!”
Remember, lying is not really a conscious decision. Rather, it is a result of the drug’s effect on the brain. Read Food Junkies by Tarman & Werdell and go to www.triggerfreenutrition.com and yes, I am working on translating my website and book for all to read. The more the disease progresses, the more the drug rebuilds the brain, the stronger and more pathological the denial becomes.
The patient/person, P, is scared and does not believe he can survive without the drug. Eating has become more important than anything else in his life. P has developed a pathological love and trust relationship with the drug. At all costs, he will do whatever it takes to get it and to protect it.
P rewrites reality because the truth is too painful. It is too painful for him to see what he is doing to himself and/or to others. In this situation, denial is used to not feel his feelings, which might include shame, guilt, pain, remorse, etc.
Why does P feel shame? It may be because of failure of not being able to stick to his diet and having to start over again and again and again. It may be he is overeating, purging, hiding, etc. It may be his inability to meet the expectations of those around him, e.g. sticking to his foodplan, losing weight, being ‘drug-free,’ etc.
How ignorant people can be to think alcoholics are only those found in the gutter, or food addicts are only those who are very obese, or drug addicts are only those who sit in quarters with a syringe in their arm. In other words, if it is not highly visible then it is not a problem!
The addict has to rewrite his reality inorder to survive. This creates tremendous confusion throughout his surroundings. Active addicts lie, they have to, reality for them is too painful. In addiction, lying is as natural as a duck taking to water; while honesty is the hallmark of being in recovery.
The confusion created is contagious. It causes people around the active user to lose their balance and become confused too. When close to an active addict’s negative field, one may become as ill as the addict but without the ‘drug.’
Forms of Denial…
“I don’t have a problem!”
“I am not a sugar/food addict, or an alcoholic, or addicted to anything at all!”
Totally oblivious to who you are and how you act.
“It is not a big deal.”
“I do not eat too many sweets, or drink too much alcohol.”
“I only binge/purge now and then.”
“I haven’t eaten or drunk as much as you think.”
“I still have a job and work.”
Reducing the severity of your behaviours and situations.
“I do not eat as much as my husband/wife/neighbor or friend.”
“They are far worse than me.”
“I am not even overweight like they are.”
Using comparisons to make you look and feel better about yourself than you do.
“It will be better tomorrow, after the weekend, when I have moved, changed jobs etc.”
“If only …”
Putting off what you know you need to do.
“OK, I lose weight and then I gain it back but no wonder because I do not get any support from home.”
“OK, I promised to stop vomiting, but you know how it is.”
“I must eat at business meetings.”
“I can’t say, ‘No,’ to my mom’s cooking. It would hurt her feelings.”
Making excuses to explain and defend your actions.
“But what would a movie be without xxx?”
“On Saturday night, I would miss being close with the kids, if I had to live without xxx.”
Romantacizing or sentamentalizing a food or a situation.
“Hey, who are you to tell me what I look like? Whose talking, look at your beer belly!”
“How can you talk about me when I saw you eating a whole package of xxx yesterday!”
By using anger and rage as a front for power you avoid being confronted. Very few people will dare to say anthing knowing they will be met with anger and hostility.
“If it was not for my childhood, boss, husband, job, the weather and more, I would not have to overeat, starve, drink, etc.”
Finding fault and pointing your finger at everything and everyone else because you are unable to look at your part in a situation.
“Oh, I’ll do that for you,” while at the same time you are thinking, “I really don’t want to and don’t have the time.”
Avoiding conflict by not rocking the boat and not creating waves at the expense of your time and energy and what you would really prefer to be doing.
“Enough about me and my problems, tell me about what you and your family are up to.”
By changing the subject you can steer clear of talking about and looking at your own problems.
“Ha, ha, ha, the kids in the park called me, “A big bumbling bozo!‘”
Using jokes and humor to conceal and minimize your true feelings and problems.
“I only ate two cookies.” However, the bag was empty and the cookies were all gone.
Lying about how much you eat and/or drink.
“I have read all of those self-help books about addiction. You can’t tell me anything that I don’t already know.”
“I am not sure I believe I am a sugar/food addict. I have to read more about it.”
Inability to use knowledge gained to appropriately change your behaviour.
“Why do I eat even when I say and swear I am not going to?”
“Why is it I can’t lose weight even though I moderate my food all of the time?”
‘Why’ is an appropriate question in cases of harmful use/eating disorders. However, ‘Why’ is not an appropriate question in the case of addiction which is a primary acquired disease (centered in the brain).
“I’m not going out. I just don’t feel like it. Stop bothering me and leave me alone!”
“I would rather stay home and watch a movie or read my book than go to that stupid party!”
By being alone, by not communicating, you are using silence as a powerful form of anger to hurt yourself and others as well as to cover up feelings of shame and guilt.
To be free from the power of addiction:
- Dare to learn about addiction—knowledge melts our defenses.
- Dare to receive help.
- Dare to be honest.
- Dare to listen to others.
- Dare to reflect.
- Dare to change—to do something different.
- Dare to identify with other addicts in treatment and at meetings.
What relief we will experience! We will see it is OK to have humor and laugh at our misery. We will see how we betrayed ourselves and how unthinkable that would be today. We will feel liberated by our truths and honesty and see everything with fresh new eyes. We will never want to return to the lonely hell of living with our drug. But unfortunately, as addicts, Denial is always looming just around the corner. In order to keep it at bay and stay emotionally, mentally, and spiritually fit we have to use our tools everyday. If not, before we know it, we will be in relapse. As someone once said, “Recovery from addiction is like going upstairs on an escalator going down. If you do not keep moving forward you will be going backwards.”