What is it about heartache the second time around? I am so much more aware of denial’s dark deceit, how it can misshape a loving intention into a dark force used to further the goals of the ego.
How can we really understand denial when we are a full 180 degrees from it, busy facing our own fears and struggles head on?
The answer is that we cannot. Trying to do so is the same as engaging in the behavior because, whether one is actually in denial or trying to dissect its essence, either way it has distracted us from our own goals.
My experience with denial has come in two forms. One of my loved ones avoided admitting to an addiction; the other avoided adulthood – both emotionally and financially. Both times, it was very tempting to try to explain to them, over and over, what to do differently to move their life forward. Surely this time around something would get through to them, right?
WHEN TO DETACH
The main lesson I had to learn was this: patterned denial is no exception to the rule that a mistake repeated numerous times is no longer a mistake. It is a decision.
We often think that since the nature of denial is that the person doesn’t really know what they are doing, they can’t be expected to fix their problem. Yet this not knowing – this stuffing into the subconscious – is a choice.
When this choice starts to affect our ability to get our emotional needs met, it is time to set some boundaries in order to ensure that the other person’s avoidance doesn’t become our burden.
HOW TO DETACH USING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
So how exactly do we detach from a person who we want to help fix?
This is tricky business, both because of our emotional connection to them and because those in denial can be very manipulative. Learning some healthy boundary setting techniques is vital in order to separate from the drama generated by those who want to use it to distract attention away from the façade they’ve built up around them.
Below are four practical techniques to protect yourself from denial’s shrapnel.
- Decide what is acceptable to you.
For this, it’s best to take a look at one healthy relationship that is in your life at the present moment. Ask yourself what makes it work. In what ways does that person respect you? What do you like best about your interactions with them? Brainstorm the aspects of this relationship that create harmony between the two of you, and use those aspects as guidelines for what you want from all your relationships.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
Having fake conversations with yourself helps you take your acceptable boundaries and articulate them properly. This is especially helpful when you’ve already allowed another to cross you multiple times. They are going to believe they have the right to continue with this pattern of behavior until Kingdom Come. It will take a clearly expressed line in the sand to help them understand how it is really going to be moving forward.
- Be a boundary brat.
In other words, be firm, consistent, and audacious. Setting new boundaries isn’t a quick fix, but a long-term a process of getting the ball rolling back in the right direction. To make it stick, you’re going to need to pull out your inner teenage rebel and use her for what she was meant for: to ensure that nobody treats you like less than what you deserve.
- Be aware that you may have to love the denier “from a distance”.
Some people are not ever going to accept the boundaries you set for them. Yet this doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate their ego spewing its drama all over you indefinitely.
Only you can decide how long to give another person to accept your terms. However, if weeks move into months of the same issues being repeated, the same concerns not being addressed, and the same feelings of frustration going unheeded, completely detaching from the relationship may be the only option. This is because you’re not actually in a relationship if you’re not relating to the other person.
It can be very helpful to seek counseling or group therapy – whether online or in person – in order to effectively cope with the complexities of denial. Here are a few resources to aid in the process:
However the situation turns out, understand that by detaching you are denying denial the fuel of acceptance that it needs to fester and grow, all while building up savings in your own self-esteem bank.