RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: Deny

To deny or not to deny . . . to be in denial is considered a negative but is it?

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.

One Marshmallow or Two? The Lost Art of Delayed Gratification

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A desire indulged spontaneously offers little more than momentary, fleeting pleasure – a treat, whose value is briefly inflated before it melts with a small sigh across our memory.

That which has been anticipated, struggled over and procrastinated against carries within it our best efforts in the shape of an earned understanding.  The resulting fulfillment is part of us, radiating a deep and lasting satisfaction that the sugary goosebumps of a treat can never hope to imitate.

It is more than 5o years since Walter Mischel’s social experiment with four year olds, in which they could enjoy the instant pleasure of eating a single marshmallow or wait twenty minutes and have two. Each child was left alone to make the choice. It was a battle between desire and self-control; gratification and delay.  A seemingly simple tussle and yet the ability to resist impulse is a fundamental emotional skill, the foundation stone of self-control.  The children who managed to wait did so by distracting themselves, demonstrating perseverance towards fulfillment of a future goal.  Follow up studies showed that those who managed to resist temptation went on to lead happier and more successful lives than those who gave into it.

Our capacity to resist is under threat.  Modern life teases, tempts and torments, seducing us into believing that not only must we have the latest phone, the most exotic holiday or the best job, we need to be the first.  We expect to achieve with limited effort on our part – because we deserve it, don’t we?  We have conformed to – and now embrace – an era of instant gratification and our ability to satiate our constant demands has become the currency by which we value ourselves and judge others, the scale by which we perceive our success.  It is the market by which our economy thrives or dives, the treadmill updated from industrial 20th to digital 21st century. Gone are the days when saving up for, or working towards the object of our desire was not only necessary but character building, strengthening resolve, patience and the ability to endure discomfort and disappointment.

 Patience is a word out of sync with our modern society.  We are so used to our desires being  instantly met, that a certain complacency sets in and we struggle to endure the discordant sensations of wanting and lack.  Waiting feels an unreasonable request, we expect it not of ourselves but of others;  so we complain and demand like a two year old whose needs are not attended to.  The planning and  anticipation of fulfillment has become the new addiction, the skin deep ‘high’ satisfying little more than a momentary whim before we’re seeking the next fix.  Lasting satisfaction comes from striving, embedding our heart and soul within our endeavours, elevating the pleasure and value way beyond the instantaneous.

The art of balancing treat and toil is fast disappearing. Let’s refuse to settle for indulgent underachievement and strive for the infinitely more satisfying depths of delayed gratification.

And then enjoy a treat!  One marshmallow or two . . . .

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