A really insightful post by Roger S. Gil was posted in LifeHacker and I wanted to share a summary here for your enjoyment. 

Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that helps a person avoid a potentially distressing truth and recognizing its presence in your behavior can do wonders for your ability to know when to look at a situation from another point of view.

Denial Can Be Healthy
Denial is a common human behaviour which acts a way of protecting our egos to get through difficult situations. Roger S. Gil asserts that “without it, we would probably blindly accept the ‘noise’ our bodies make when we’re tired and don’t want to finish a workout instead of ignoring the fact that fatigue is eating away at our stamina”

Denial Can Be Harmful
On the other side of the coin, denial is also harmful because can also act as an enabling behaviour for a wide verity of unhealthy behaviours (e.g. addiction, impulsive risk-taking, etc.) or unhealthy behaviours addressed towards you (e.g. abusive relationship, a job that exploits you, etc.). The problem is that most people won’t recognize unhealthy denial until the problem has gone out of control or when they reach rock bottom and the only possible explanation in self-denial.


Pay Attention to Recurring Negative Themes
If you constantly find yourself in situations with negative themes (e.g. a series of harmful relationships, negative side effects related to an addictive behaviour, etc.), you should engage yourself is some serious self-reflection because you may be denying your role in pursuing or enabling these situations or behaviours. They sooner you find these patterns, the sooner you can act to change them.

Don’t Blame Groups of People
If you’re constantly finding groups of people who are “guilty” of certain behaviours towards you, in other words, everybody is out to get you – everybody is a “they”. “They” are like that, it’s not me. “They hate me without reason,” then you’re essentially denying your role in the situation. I have this personal saying that swiftly applies here: If one person comments on something they don’t like about you (certain attitude or behaviour), it’s fine, you’re not perfect and can’t be liked by everybody so it’s fine to continue with such behaviour or attitude if you are fine with it. If a second person makes the same comment, well, it’s probably a coincidence, it happens, move on along. If a THIRD persons says, time to reassess and get on changing that behaviour/attitude, it’s you.

Consult Different Thinkers
Surround yourself with people who think differently from you to keep you honest. There’s a study a read somewhere that says we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Think about it, if all your friends think the same and have the same values, they can be enablers of your negative behaviour because they are guilty of the same behaviours. I believe that your best friends are the ones that can be gentle when you want them to be and tough when you need them to be. Friends who thinking differently than you can call B.S. in your denial, keep grounded and offer a strong hand to hold in when handling tough situations.
In conclusion, by constantly questioning ourselves and others around us, we can create a strong foundation to allows to identify both self-denial and denial towards others.

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Roger S. Gil, M.A.M.F.T., is a a mental health clinician that specializes in marriage and family therapy. You can follow Roger on Twitter and check out his podcast for more. 

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