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It's Called 'Denial'
Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor
Wearing rose-colored glasses.Sticking your head in the sand.
Avoidance. The Big D—Denial. Hoping for the best. Pretending those
elephants are still far off in the distance, and they don’t stink!
Even turning the other cheek.
We call it by different names, but the outcome is the same. We keep
doing what we’ve always done, and wonder why we get the same results.
Yes, some call it insanity. I’ve called it whistling Dixie or
making a molehill out of a mountain.
You know the routine. You know there is a problem. It nags at you,
begging for attention. But, to take action requires a mental, emotional
and perhaps even spiritual shift. To face the problem head-on requires
immense courage to make the change in attitude and behavior. We’re
afraid to hurt.
And so, given that change makes demands of us, we easily shift back
into living as if the problem will magically clear itself up. It won’t.
It’s silly, really. When our kids were young, we scolded them
for avoiding problems. “You’re room’s not going to
clean itself,” we said firmly. Or, “You keep promising to
bring up your grades, but you’re not studying any harder.”
Having issued those bold assertions, we turn away from our problems,
hoping beyond hope they’ll fix themselves. They don’t.
Recently Leona posted this message:
“I have been dating someone that I met at church the end of November.
How do I ask him whether he is dating anyone else and tell him that
I would like our relationship to be exclusive without causing a fight
or flight response in him? Should I let him broach the topic first?
Recently, he became noticably jealous when I did not answer my cell
phone when I was with him, so I know that he would not like it if I
were seeing other people, either. Biblically, the man is to lead the
relationship. Does this mean that the man should also decide when a
relationship reaches a new level?”
This note perfectly illustrates what we’re learning about whistling
Dixie, or avoiding significant issues in a relationship. There are several
problems for Leona to address.
First, we should never avoid talking to someone because we’re
afraid they’ll either fight or flee. While it may be uncomfortable
to discuss and issue, we cannot let ourselves be limited by how we think
someone will respond. Their response is their business, your approach
is your business. Codependency has been defined as “the tendency
to avoid or deny the weakness in another, and thereby reinforce it.”
Second, Leona may be hinting at another problem needing to be addressed.
If she is frightened of talking to her boyfriend, what does that say
about their relationship? Do they have safety so that any issue is safe
to discuss? If not, they have some additional work to do to create safety.
Couples must have an agreement that any topic is safe, understanding
that a problem left to fester will lead to greater difficulties down
the road. Each person is responsible for bringing a level of safety
to the discussion, free from explosion, manipulation, escalation, or
Third, Leona wonders about what her boyfriend is thinking, and whether
he is dating someone else. They’ve been dating over three months
and she doesn’t know what he’s thinking about the direction
of their relationship. It is usually best, under these circumstances,
to make the unspoken, spoken. In other words, if you’re obsessing
about an issue, talk about it. If you don’t, your feelings will
come out in other ways.
In almost any relationship, it’s good to periodically have what
my sons call, the DTR—Determine The Relationship. Another way
of saying this is, “What are we doing? Where is this relationship
going? Are we on the same page regarding such and such?” DTR’s
clear the air, creating an opportunity to readjust expectations. We
cannot read our mate’s mind, and they can’t read ours. Countless
problems can be avoided by simply clarifying expectations.
Leona has some talkin’ to do and some problems to face. Perhaps
your issues are slightly different from hers, but just as concerning.
What are the elephants you’re avoiding? Is there substance abuse
in your marriage you don’t want to talk about? Has there been
domestic violence, with promises that it will never happen again? Is
there addiction to pornography, with lies upon lies to deny the problem?
You know in your heart that these problems not only won’t go away,
they’ll grow, becoming stronger and even more damaging. Cancer,
untreated, metastasizes, becomes virulent and ultimately, untreated,
Denial is not just a river in Egypt, the elephants are not a long
way off, and they do stink! Rose-colored glasses are great on a sunny
day, but not too useful when the situation is cloudy. God expects us
to use the mind He gave us for learning from, and solving problems.
I’d like to hear from you—visit the Message
Board and tell us about problems you’re reluctant to face,
and why. What has been the impact of denial on your life? How did you
screw up your courage for change? Please share
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various
trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And
let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.” (James 1: 2-4)
About the Author: With more than 30 years of counseling experience,
David Hawkins, Ph.D., has a special interest in helping individuals
and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books,
including "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You" and "When
Trying to Change Him Is Hurting You", have more than 300,000 copies
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