Watching someone close struggle with an obvious substance use problem or the symptoms of a mental health condition is maddening. Most often, we call it denial- when a loved one cannot recognize or admit that their addiction or mental health condition has become a problem. However, denial is more than that, though it certainly can be blatant ignorance. Denial are the blinders we wear to avoid, rather than the blinders we do not know we are wearing.
Denial is a form of protection
Bestselling author Melody Beattie described denial as “the shock absorber for the soul,” in her book Codependent No More. “It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change.” Beattie explains that denial has a purpose in protection. Moreover, denial “prevents us from acknowledging reality until we feel prepared to cope with that particular reality.”
Addiction is a tough reality, as is realizing you are struggling against a mental health issue. For professionals especially, denial can be an expansive cloak. The fears associated with coming clean about the need to get clean or get help are realistic for a professional. Professionals have dedicated years of their lives to schooling, training, interning, apprenticing, and diligently working toward a dream. Facing the harsh reality of having voluntarily put that dream in danger is incredibly tough to do. Denial keeps the weight of crushing weight of accountability off of the shoulders. Until, that is, the weight of carrying on denial is heavier than admitting the truth.
Denial is a form of self-deception
“Everyone is in denial about something,” writes The New York Times in “Denial Makes The World Go Round”. “In the modern vernacular, to say someone is ‘in denial’ is to deliver a savage combination punch: one shot to the belly for the cheating or drinking or bad behavior, and another slap to the head for the cowardly self-deception of pretending it’s not a problem.”
Tremendous shame, stereotype, and stigma come with addiction and mental health. Professionals are not only admitting to their addiction and how their life has developed beyond their control, but to a lack of professionalism, ethics, morals, values, and consideration of others lives. Pretending addiction isn’t a problem is only one part of denial for professionals. Most professionals are educated enough to know that addiction most certainly is a problem and that they are deceiving themselves to think addiction isn’t a problem. Denial takes a peculiar form here. The addiction is no longer the center of denial. Instead, the self-deception, specifically, the need to acknowledge the problem, lies in not being open about the denial itself.
Let the O’Connor Professional Group take the guesswork out of putting a treatment plan together. Our combined personal and professional experience empowers us to empower you with a private consultation and customized plan of action for getting the help you need. Call us today for information: 617 910-3940