Emotional Healing: Denial – Detrimental And Survival

By Dr. Ted Wiard

Editors Note: This is part of an ongoing series of columns by grief specialist Dr. Ted Wiard, dedicated to helping educate the community about emotional healing.

For many months now, the world has found itself in challenging times and it has affected each person, family, organization and community.

There are many pandemics that have arisen from this time of upheaval: racism, sexism, law enforcement, judicial and political systems, power differentials, educational systems, physical and mental health, personal rights vs. community protection, and the list goes on and on causing higher levels of chaos and fear.

From a systems standpoint, these issues are all valid and the world finds itself in a time of reexamining almost every paradigm, value, moral stand and political view that has been taken for granted or has become the status quo for many years. Consciously or unconsciously many issues are now clearly in the face of societal norms.

It is not easy in the midst of crisis to be mindful and try to navigate actions for the long-run and the “bigger picture” for growth and positive change. The brain functions on removing discomfort and trying to survive the present moment, which leads to reactive actions and instant gratification through the path of least resistance. Humans have developed the frontal lobe so that it actually can override the impulsive reaction and respond from a place of long-term rewards that serve the person and society.

A key factor to have long-term gains, and possibly survival of the species, is to move out of denial and the idea that the world has not changed, and everything is how it was before the pandemic hit. For most people, the cognitive and emotional blinders were ripped off and society found itself standing naked with all blemishes being seen by all who chose to open their eyes. In the grief process, denial buys time for someone to emotionally and cognitively realign to the present environment in which that person is living.

There is a level of resistance to realign as it can be very scary to move from what has been the norm to the unknown even if the old way was not healthy or productive. Denial is like insulation, so that our system is not flooded with stimuli and the loss of a foundation to navigate one’s world. This insulation of denial is important and allows time for change.

Denial can also be detrimental as someone may fight for the way “it used to be” and try to have their world not be different. The only problem is that loss has happened and no matter how hard someone fights to have it be like it was before, it is impossible. Finding ways to lean out of comfort zones and move into the present situation can help chisel at denial and decrease fear of the unknown while building a new foundation of the present moment.

Most people do not like change in their everyday lives or in their view of the world around them. Today we live in a world where everybody must find a way to work together to rebuild a healthy foundation so that future rewards outweigh the attempt to hold onto the past by reactive instant gratification. As the saying goes, “It’s okay to look back, just don’t stare.” If we can glean wisdom from the past while making decisions from a present stance, we can chisel through levels of denial and build a world that is stronger and better for all of humanity and the earth in general. I wish you well, and until the next time, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call at 575.776.2024.

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