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#17 - Denial, A Powerful Sleeping Pill

Indeed! Sleep walking is its main effect, generally invisible to those under its potent influence. With denial we are unable to see, hear, or realize of the signals that should be screaming at us.

Under the influence of Denial … 
When sober...
She just has a character disorder.          Actually she’s being disrespectful to the point of abuse and needs disciplinary measures.
His departure won’t affect the organization.  Actually, the anxiety is palpable and his direct reports are wondering if they shouldn’t leave a sinking ship.
I have a great job with excellent benefits.  Actually, gossip and negativity are pervasive and I can’t wait to leave at the end of the day.
He just needs his space.  Actually, he’s leaving the relationship.
Why do we deny what is just in front of our eyes? Perhaps it’s a way of sheltering ourselves from hurt and disappointment. Or maybe we need to rationalize our action or inaction. Are we protecting our bruised ego? Or are we avoiding the responsibility of a clear decision? It seems that individually or collectively we’re unfortunately ready to go to great lengths to ignore the elephant in the room.

What we avoid, however may be the very thing that will set us free. How can we let truth into our relationships, our organization, our lives?

  • First, let’s accept that denial is human. It enables us to cope with a reality we can’t quite face. In small doses, it helps us sleep for a time, until we can take the inevitable in small bites without being overwhelmed.
  • Second, we need to remember that in large doses, denial is lethal. It can bring about even more of what we don’t want and help us dig a hole on which no light can shine. Whole organizations have been in denial about ethical breaches, about the value of a product or offering, about their financial demise. Individuals can stay immobile for years and bring about worse outcomes.
  • Third, we need friends, coaches, family, colleagues, bosses who care enough to apply tough love and remove the Denial pills from within our reach. Dare ask others for their perspective on the situation. Folks outside the system, the organization, group or family. What is it they see and experience? If you are curious and ask with the intention of really listening, you will hear through the fog what you knew all along, and start taking the actions you need to take.
The truth does set us free. Once free, we need to shower ourselves with both courage and compassion to get ready for a brand new day.

~ Dominique