Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This can't be happening...

I was reading something today about the topic of denial.  The author likened denial to a blanket or a cloak of protection that we use in harmful or abusive situations; this covering protects us, shields us from the intensity of emotion that is too difficult to handle at the time.  As we are in a more accepting and loving atmosphere, however, we can shed this protective layer.  Yet, the writer said that denial is a tool which can be used to protect ourselves once more when we are in a similar situation - where there is the threat of harm or of abuse.  The more we are in a warm and accepting atmosphere, the less we will need our security blanket of denial and will be able to face our own pain as we are able, and finally heal.

I had never thought of it in those terms before.  But it makes sense!

The comparison of denial to a blanket or cloak of protection made me think of a long-forgotten story, one I learned in school when we did a section on Aesop's fables.  

The sun and the wind were having a dispute over which of them was stronger.  Along came a traveler on the road, and the sun said, "I see a way to determine the answer to our dispute.  Whichever of us can cause this traveler to remove his cloak is the stronger.  You start."  And the wind blew his hardest, but the more he did, the tighter the traveler pulled his cloak around him.  Finally the sun came out from behind a cloud and took his turn.  He shone in all his brilliance and warmth and the traveler was soon too hot to continue, so he willingly removed his cloak and carried it.  The moral of the story (and there is always a moral with Aesop) is that gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.  

Source of the drawing:
This has proven true in my life, not only as a recipient of force and bluster (and occasionally of gentleness and kindness) but as a giver as well.  And many have been the times that I have pulled the cloak of denial around me to protect me from the harsh winds of someone's judgment, rudeness, or abuse - verbal or otherwise.  Of course denial has a down-side as well: it not only numbs us to the unpleasant feelings from which it protects us but also keeps us from being able to experience the pleasant ones.  Only in a warm atmosphere of total acceptance can we feel comfortable enough to let go of our protective covering and open ourselves to deep internal healing.  In my case, the affirmation I received - that although my experiences were not normal, my reaction to them was - freed me enough on the inside to begin to face some of those experiences from which I had been hiding all my life.  

I find it encouraging that I'm not expected to entirely dispense with that defense mechanism of denial, and I have made a mental note to myself that if I see someone who is in denial, my best response is not to rip their protection from them in an attempt to "make them face reality" ... but rather, to accept and love them as they are, to be a safe place for them, so that they will come to the point on their own where they don't need their cloak anymore.  

It might take more time ... but the healing that results will be deeper and longer-lasting.

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