Everyone is in denial about something; just try denying it and watch friends make a list.
Varieties of denial include inattention, passive acknowledgment, reframing and willful blindness.
For Sigmund Freud, denial was a defense against external realities that threaten the ego, and many psychologists today would argue that it can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news, like a cancer or addictive diagnosis.
D – Don’t
E – Even
N – Notice
I – I
A – Am
L – Lying
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.
Yet recent studies from fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology suggest that the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships.
The psychological tricks that people use to ignore a festering problem in their own households are the same ones that they need to live with everyday human dishonesty and betrayal, their own and others’.
And it is these highly evolved abilities, research suggests, that provide the foundation for that most disarming of all human invitations, forgiveness.