“Why am I the only person not in denial in my family?”
“I have begged and pleaded about his drinking and he’s still in denial, it’s sickening. Can he really be that blind?”
“I’m so tired of watching my family wallow in denial. It really pisses me off!”
That’s how I used to feel anytime I’d come up against the denial that runs like water in my family.
I remember once my mom was sitting across from my grandma and uncle. She had on a collared shirt that exposed the bruises ringed around her neck.
Both my uncle and grandma joked and asked her if they were hickeys from my stepdad.
The marks were from my stepdad alright but they weren’t hickeys. They were bruises from when he nearly choked her to death on our living room floor.
Sitting their, witnessing their jokes, made me feel like I walked right into an episode of The Twilight Zone where everything is the opposite of reality.
How could my family be so blind? How could they be so far gone in their denial?
If you’ve managed to even rise an inch above the dysfunction and chaos in your family – chances are you’ve had to look on as your loved ones continue to live in denial.
And if you know that frustration and you’re looking for new ways to deal with it so that you don’t completely lose your mind, then this post is for you.
Today, you’ll learn four strategies that will help keep your head clear and your heart open regardless of how deep denial runs in your family.
Once you’ve had a chance to read, let me know:
How do you handle denial in your family or with a loved one? What have you tried to do to deal with it? What’s worked and what hasn’t. What pisses you off the most?
Leave a comment below.
As this Navajo Proverb so eloquently says,
You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
You can’t force someone out of their denial but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your damn mind because of it.
Until Next Tuesday.
P.S. I covered denial in a recent post and got so many emails on the topic that I decided to go at it again. If you have any lingering questions or are looking for specific help with denial, please let me know. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S. Remember, your voice, experiences and insight are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
#1 Get The Dirt On Denial
One way to ease your frustration around denial is to understand it’s purpose. So often, in dysfunctional families, we get so caught up in the drama that we easily lose perspective.
We lose the ability to step away from the family and asses situations objectively. But with the right balance of emotion and fact you’ll find it much easier to maintain sanity.
At a very basic level denial accomplishes two things:
- Keeps someone from having to admit that there’s a problem
- Allows that person to avoid taking action
So, for example, if your dad clearly has a drinking problem and he’s in denial about it – instead of letting frustration take over and ruin your life, try to look at the situation objectively.
Denial affords your dad the opportunity to avoid admitting he has a problem which keeps him from having to do something about it.
Understanding this angle of the problem and understanding denial’s purpose in your dad’s situation could go a long way in keeping you from losing your mind.
That’s not to say that you can’t be upset or that you have to stuff your feelings away in some deep, dark cave. But the more dirt you have on denial, aka, the more you understand it, the better off you’ll be.
#2 Praise The Laaawd-You Ain’t In Denial No More!
As you come out of denial, you’ll probably experience a mixed bag of emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel angry, confused and even guilty.
But no matter how intense your feelings may get don’t lose sight of the gift you’ve received.
Pulling yourself out of denial and owning your truth is something to be very happy about.
Think about it. You could spend the rest of your life living a big fat lie but instead you now have the power to change what’s not working for you.
Now you can take action and no matter how small your steps are as long as you keep taking them you will keep chipping away at the dysfunction and madness that once ruled your life.
#3 Give Them Space
I covered this idea in the last post I did on denial but it’s worth repeating here.
No matter how badly you may want a friend or family member to see the light that you now see, you can’t make them.
You’ve got to give people space to have their own breakthroughs and breakdowns.
Does it suck? Absolutely. Just know that you’re not alone in your frustration.
Giving a loved one space doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning them, it just means that you’ll be there for them when they’re ready to step into the truth.
#4 Try Out The Two Strike Rule
Finally, if you haven’t reached the point where you’re ready to completely pull back on your efforts with a loved one, then give the two strike rule a try.
Here’s how this works.
So let’s say your daughter is in denial about her alcohol use. Bring it up to her once and see what her response is. Does the idea go right over her head? Does she get defensive? If so, that’s strike one.
Wait a bit and try bringing up the idea again. And again, take note of her reaction. If she’s still not open to a discussion, then let it go. That’s strike two.
Now. The two strike rule won’t work with life-threatening situations. If your loved one is in danger of hurting himself or even you then you need to seek out professional help.
However, the two strike rule can help with more chronic situations. For example, my dad has always been in denial about my stepmom. And there was time when I drove myself crazy trying to lead him to the truth. He’d moan and complain about how unhappy he was but he’d never take the next step and actually try to handle his situation.
That’s when I discovered the two strike rule. Instead of wasting my energy on trying to lead him out of denial. I’d try to reach him once and if that didn’t work, I’d try again and when that failed I moved on.
This approach gave me structure and it allowed me to preserve my sanity. If I ever started to feel guilty over my dad or worry that I wasn’t helping him enough, I’d fall back on the two strike rule. This rule was proof that I tried and I could remind myself of that whenever I got frustrated.
The good thing about the two strike rule is that you can recycle it and use it as often as needed.
Even if your loved one strikes out that doesn’t mean that they always will. But, when it comes to breaking free from denial you can’t stand up and bat for them, they’ve got to step up to the plate for themselves.
Remember, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 but each one brought him closer to a home run.