Denial is a natural reaction to anything which may cause us discomfort or distress, to that which we did not seek – illness, loss of a job or relationship. It’s a form of rejection of participation in what is. Often viewed by others through a lens of negativity and accompanied by an underlying current of judgement, someone ‘in denial’ is perceived to have failed one of life’s many tests.
But denial has a role. We find ourselves catapulted into no man’s land, somewhere between the longed for safety of the familiar past and the resisted, feared future. Shell shocked, our senses heightened and with eyes clouded by confusion, we scramble to return to the safety from whence we came, only to feel the ground give way beneath us. The more we try to no avail the further we sink ever deeper into the quagmire and risk becoming stuck. But it is also a place of self-compassion where we can reside until we’re ready to face that which in this moment feels overwhelming. A place from which acceptance can gently and tenderly coax us toward the horizon we are not yet ready to meet.
Rigid with indecision and unable to move in either direction we continue to resist, knowing that we must find the courage to journey on and the strength to step out into our future, away from the place we mourn but in which we can no longer reside. Denial provides space, it enables us to take time to dip our toe back and forth, retreat and try once more until we feel ready. Eventually the dawn of acceptance – that we cannot go back – rises within, our attention released and now free to turn toward the new horizon.
By natural progression we tire of just staring at the future unable to fully participate from the incapacity of no man’s land and the first stirrings of curiosity and frustration spur us onward. The nurturing cradle of denial now feels restrictive as we strain to see what’s happening over the horizon. The moment we step across the threshold separating resistance from readiness, carrying with us the comfort of knowing it will always be there to offer a temporary haven, we take our first tentative steps into a future full of fresh possibilities.