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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Denial - dealing with facts and opinions

"Hello, how are you?" "I am fine, thanks." This answer is one of the most basic forms of denial. We don't say to others how we truly feel, unless it's positive. We assume that the other is not interested in our answer. We assume that the other has no time no listen to us. We convince ourselves that the question was just a matter of courtesy. Denial rules the daily lives of many of us. It's easier to cope with make belief than with reality.

Interestingly, denial is not considered the same as lying. Nobody would call someone in denial a liar or being a dishonest person. The difference is the perspective on the facts. A liar or dishonest person has the same perspective on the facts as you but still denies accountability, involvement, or responsibility. Both persons know that it is a lie. Someone in denial has a very different perspective on facts. The truth is too hard to deal with and thus there must be some other kind of "explanation". This is the point were the fabrication starts. At times I have noticed that denial involves an impressive distortion of the facts (i.e., fabrication). The mind is able to come up with alternatives that look quite convincing at face value. Nevertheless, denial is lying to yourself. Others feel pity or rage rather than seeing someone in denial as a liar.

The reason(s) for denial is (are) in the dark side of our mind (see August 3 blog). They typically involve the consequences of long-term negative human emotions  such as anger, distrust, fear, hate, humiliation or shame. Often our facial expression is not able to hide what our words are hiding from others. See my April 12 blog on Human Emotions - a new classification.

Interestingly, accepting facts is far less obvious than we might assume. We either accept facts prematurely (impulsiveness), change its meaning (denial), consider before accepting them (syncing brain, guts, heart, and mind), delay accepting them (inertia, procrastination, stubbornness), or refuse to accept them as these facts do not fit in our Belief system (i.e., Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth). In this context, denial is just another way of dealing with facts.

Our dealing with facts also implies that the difference between opinions and facts is opaque. What is the difference between opinions and facts? Does a large number of people with the same opinion count as a fact? Does a minority view automatically qualify as an opinion? How much evidence do we need to establish a fact? Are facts eternal or time-bound? Are exceptions evidence for opinions or proof of facts? Is everything an opinion when facts are eternal, without exceptions, and with a 100% reliability? In that case only mathematics may qualify as delivering "facts".

The only relevance for the difference between facts and opinions is our notion about right and wrong and ultimately even good and bad. Facts are "right" and opposing opinions are "wrong". "Bad" people have "wrong" opinions, while "good" people have the "right" facts. However, different times usually present different notions (e.g., Galileo Galilei).

There is an immutable fact about denial: it does not work—long term. Reality always wins. And when it does, the next step in the process is blame, which shifts responsibility onto someone or something else. So where there's denial, blame is always available to ease the pain when reality bites. (Psychology Today)