Denial stage is an assertion that something said, believed or alleged is false. When we look at the root of the word it’s interesting to note that it means ‘Contradiction’. Before we directly step into Denial as Defense mechanism let’s explore how common it is and reflect how easily we all use this to our advantage.
The most common and most easily relatable to all is when results after exams are not good. The first and most common is to blame either the exam itself, examiner or some factor beyond one’s control while not taking responsibility for the bad show in exams. But if the same results are good “I worked hard and I am capable” is the way things are looked at.
A Study revealed that most of the close relatives who had an emotional investment in the person who is dead took much longer time to accept that the person is dead and they continued to be in denial stage and expecting some miracle. Why do we deny reality and why is it so difficult to accept hard truths especially when it is against what we believe and what we do not want to believe.
There is a rare condition called ‘Anosognosia’ where the person denies having paralysis while actually, he is suffering from it. This happens especially if the left part of the Brain is affected leading to paralysis of the right side of the body. Some patients deny that the arm or leg is paralyzed and continue to argue that they are perfectly fine. This neurological condition does say that wanting to deny and willingly suspend obviously is not something which is very superficial and learned behavior but seems to be deep-rooted biological phenomenon. One wonderful thing about most of the biological phenomenon is that is always with a purpose and generally protective in nature. So does this mean Denial stage is for a purpose and it is protective in nature? Though the answer cannot be a simple yes there is an indication to believe it to be a BIG YES.
It is very well known that right and left half of the brain has its unique functional identities (which are quantitative in nature) but function as one integrated unit for the preservation of individual. There is no scientific evidence to either prove or disprove the dichotomy of the brain into left and right half specific to specialization but functionally each hemisphere has upper hand in certain functional aspects of an individual. While the logical, critical left brain comes up with denials and explanations for denial so that its integrity and conformity to its already existing information/beliefs are not shattered. The right part of the Brain acting as an observer(Self) of its own actions to maintain one’s learned beliefs. This seems to be necessary at a deeper level otherwise person will never have the opinion, ideas and thereby no goals also.
In mental health, Denial is considered one of the basic facts taught from Defense mechanisms an individual uses for self-preservation or to preserve ego. This becomes a big problem and challenge to deal when this is found in the individual with the mental health problem. The Problem gets compounded when we see denial and extension of denial and other forms of defense mechanisms like rationalization, confabulation which are noted in family members.
The therapist faces the challenge of helping the person with mental health problem overcome challenge of Denial stage. When a family member of the person with mental illness uses other defense mechanisms it gets even challenging and recovery gets hijacked. It’s interesting to note that certain basic, common and fundamental aspects of our psyche can complicate things states of problems and illnesses. Its Biological basis hopefully will be explored and exposed by Science one Day.