If you ever want to deny something, whether it’s something you did and don’t want to admit, or whether it’s something you never did and want to make that plain, there are six ways you can do it. Six tried and true methods of denial. However, just a word of caution; when you’re trying to deny something that really happened, none of them work.
Denial of Fact
The first way is the most obvious. You just don’t admit something happened. Look them in the eye and say you didn’t do it. You declare:
I never touched her. I was never near the place. I never said that. It’s all a big misunderstanding. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I never lied, not a single time, ever.
Similar to the denial of fact, is minimization; denying some facts, but not others. You had two drinks, not seven. You went to the casino, but only gambled one hundred dollars, not five. You smoked, but never inhaled. You only kissed her. You’re telling the truth this time, honest.
If you truly never did the thing you’re accused of, then nothing beats denial of fact; why would you need any other method? But, if you are guilty, then denial of fact is a dangerous game. Facts can be discovered. Truth can be exposed. There are often witnesses. There’s GPS. Some disappointed Other Women have been known to come forth and contact the wife at home. Why, you might even slip up and forget which lie you told to whom and when. Moreover, you’re putting your sanity at risk. Watch out when you start to believe your own bald-faced lies. You won’t know the difference between up and down.
The other problem with denial of fact is that it’s often misdirected. It’s not the fact in question that’s the real question. It often doesn’t matter whether you had seven drinks or two; touched her or didn’t touch her; said something or didn’t say it; inhaled, told the truth, gambled, or whatever. The real question, a question that is seldom asked, but always present, is: can you be trusted? Facts don’t settle issues of trust. It doesn’t matter whether you can marshal documents, witnesses, or evidence to support your case; if he doesn’t trust you, then he doesn’t trust you.
If you have a loved one who has lost trust in you, then there’s only a few things you can do about it. You can leave, or wait for the other person to leave, because, if there is no trust, then what’s the point of the relationship? You can be patient and wait for your loved one to forget she lost trust in you, like that’s ever going to happen. Or you can be honest and tell him everything.
When you’re honest about something you did, then at least you’re being honest. She may not like what you are admitting, but at least you’re honest about it.
If you do get caught in denial of fact, then you have five more methods of denial at your disposal.
Denial of Responsibility
I did it, but it’s not my fault. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. They kept pressuring me. There were a lot of factors. It was going to happen anyway. I have a disease, an addiction, a weakness to temptation, I was pressured. I’m the victim, here; why are you yelling at me? It’s my wife’s fault I cheated on her. If my husband didn’t nag so much I wouldn’t need to drink so much. I didn’t mean to do it. I was trying to win enough money to pay the rent. I have to drink so much because of my anxiety. I didn’t go to work because of my depression. The devil made me do it. Mistakes were made.
When you use denial of responsibility, you admit the fact of the misdeed, but not the intention. You profess you’re not the agent of change. You claim you did not have free will.
This is a good place for denial to hide. It’s almost impossible for someone to prove an intention. You’re the only one who knows what you intended. But, what did you intend? Can you really, honestly say that you never planned the misdeed or allowed it to happen? Does it really matter if you intended it or not?
Lots of things happen that are not your intention. You could be a kind, considerate, mindful, pacifistic, vegan, but, on your way to yoga class, you could run over a squirrel. The squirrel would die a slow, excruciating death; its family would mourn, but you didn’t mean to do it. Then, you get to class and you realize there was a meditation exercise you forgot to do. You didn’t mean to forget, but you still promised to do it and failed to follow through. Then your teacher says your check for the classes bounced. You look at your checkbook and find a simple subtraction error. Again, you didn’t intend on stiffing the guru, but you still have to pay the fees. Class begins. You’re all doing the downward dog and out comes a massive fart. Everyone knows it was you. You apologize, but it’s not like you meant to stink up the place.
It doesn’t take long before using denial of responsibility makes you look like you have no will of your own. Is that what you want? Is it better to be flaky or forthright? Slippery or scrupulous? In bad faith or a bad ass? Your choice.
Denial of Awareness
I didn’t know what happened. It all happened so fast. I don’t remember. I’m not sure. I just lost track of time. Things got away from me. I must have blacked out. I overslept. I have ADD. It just slipped out. I didn’t know you cared about that.
When you use denial of awareness, you are still trying to evade responsibility by saying the deed was out of your conscious control. The vegan didn’t see the squirrel he hit. He didn’t write down the homework assignment. He hadn’t balanced his checkbook in a long time. The fart snuck up on him.
Denial of awareness just kicks the can down the road a little way. Even if it’s true that you didn’t know what you were doing, you’re still responsible for not knowing what you’re doing. It’s your mind, so it’s up to you to use it. Even if you’re not held responsible for what you do when you are drunk, asleep, or unaware; you are still responsible for being drunk, asleep, or unaware and you have to accept the consequences that come with it.
Denial of Impact
No harm was done. What’s it to you? Why do you care? I’m just hurting myself. It doesn’t need to be that big a deal. Everyone does it. There’s no victim. Yeah, I ate some of the cake you baked for someone’s birthday, but there’s plenty left. This hurts me more than it hurts you. It’s my body… money… house…life…etc, so I can do what I want with it.
In this case, you are admitting you did the deed, but there was no injury and no basis of complaint. You committed a victimless crime. The tree fell in the forest, but it didn’t hit anyone.
Have you really carefully examined the effects of your actions? Are you listening to what people are saying about what you have done to them?
Let’s take the woman who was raised by alcoholics. You’re her husband. Things were awful when she was growing up because of the drinking. There were fights to dodge, puke to clean up, smaller siblings to watch when she’d rather just be a kid. She couldn’t wait to leave home and be done with it all. Then she gets married to you. You drink. No, you don’t drink too much; you don’t fight, don’t puke, and you don’t even have kids to neglect. In fact, you never drink more than two beers in a row. You could stop anytime you want, if you had a good reason to do so. Your drinking causes absolutely no problems, except one. She gets uptight every time she sees a beer in your hand.
Does your drinking have an impact?
Of course it does. It’s a simple case of cause and effect. She sees the beer and she gets uptight. It’s true that, perhaps, she is reacting more to the events of the past than what is likely to happen now; but your beer is triggering her. Her parents loaded the gun, but you pull the trigger. It’s true that, perhaps, she is being unfair to ask you to not drink because of her; but, if you love her, isn’t it enough to abstain because it makes her crazy? It’s true that it might be better for her to deal with her past. You could even make an argument that seeing you drink responsibly could help her be less reactionary to alcohol, sort of like exposure therapy. All that could be so; but, please call it as it is. That beer is having a detrimental impact.
The purpose of cutting through denial, in all its forms, is not to humiliate, or blame, or make you responsible for everything. The purpose is to sweep away all of the complications, so you can see things as they are.
Denial of Pattern
It just happened. No one could’ve seen it coming. I didn’t set myself up. I didn’t prepare myself. I didn’t groom my victims. I didn’t know I was going to do it until I did it. I go from zero to sixty before I know it. One minute, I’m in recovery; the next minute, I’m looking for drugs. I was just going to get water when I went into the bar. I don’t have to change people, places, and things; I just have to stop using.
Nothing happens by itself. Every event is part of a pattern. There is always a context. No one goes from zero, directly to sixty, without going through all the steps between. There is always a pattern. You can be excused if you don’t know it; but are you looking for it?
Patterns can be hard to distinguish if you’re not paying attention. It’s possible to think you see a false pattern, but that doesn’t mean there’s isn’t a pattern. Detecting a true pattern can be a tremendous benefit. It informs you of warning signs. It gives you a chance to get a jump on things. It lets you intervene on a problem before it gets too big. But, to detect a pattern, you have to be open minded about what it might be.
People often want to deny a pattern because, if they were to acknowledge it, that would mean they may have to give up some things that, by themselves, are not a problem. Take the woman who uses cocaine every time she goes to a particular bar. She admits that cocaine is a problem and wants to stop using it, but she likes the bar. The bar is cool, all of her friends are at the bar, and there is nothing bad about her drinking, except that, when she goes to the bar, she uses blow. If she were to admit there’s a pattern, she would have to admit that the bar is part of the problem.
Denial of the Need for Help
I can stop any time I want. I can do this on my own. I don’t need to go to group… a therapist… see a doctor… stay in rehab; all they want is my money. There’s nothing they can teach me. I’ve been there and learned it all, already. I’ve got to just do it. I don’t need to be punished; I’ll never do it again. I learned my lesson. I don’t need anyone on my case… on my back… being suspicious… reminding me of the past. I’ll stop, cold turkey.
To a certain extent, if you deny the need for help, I like your spirit. At least you sound like you’re taking responsibility for the solution to your problem. After all, even if you do accept help, it still comes down to you. You’ve got to want to change. You have to do it. No one is going to do it for you.
However, when you admit you did something wrong, but won’t get help for it, you’re placing a bet that you can handle it all by yourself. That’s great, if you can; maybe you will. But what are you betting? What exactly is on the line? Is your husband threatening to leave? Are you giving your wife black eyes? Are you squandering your children’s future? Are you breaking your parents’ hearts? Maybe you can deal with the consequences if you fail, but are you thinking about how a relapse will effect others? How does it sound to them, the people you have already harmed, when you say you’re going to gamble with doing it all again? Is this how you think you can make it right with them, by disregarding their feelings?
There’s another thing to think about when you decide whether or not to get help. Let’s say you have a shopping addiction. You’ve run up credit card bills. Every day a new package comes from Amazon with something you don’t need. You can’t even walk in the spare bedroom because of all the crap you put in there. Your husband wants you to go to Shopaholics Anonymous. No, you say, you don’t want to talk to strangers about your problem. You agree to cut up your credit cards. You let your husband change your Amazon password. You go for a run every time you get the urge to shop. You’ve got this. You don’t need any more help. But there’s just one thing.
Maybe it’s your husband who needs the help.
Maybe he can’t handle it on his own. Maybe he doesn’t know what to do. If you go to Shopaholics Anonymous, you’re helping him, too. That way, he doesn’t have to be the only one watching out for you. He’s got a village. He has others on the team who can be more objective. He doesn’t have to worry quite so much. He can trust you just a little bit more. It looks like you’re taking his concerns seriously.
Maybe your husband needs a group of his own for spouses of shopaholics. That’ll be good if such a thing exists, but it’s not a substitute for his need for you to get help for yourself.
So, six places where denial hides. Did you find any of yours there?
I’ve been writing for a while about the challenges of reconciliation (in The Road to Reconciliation) from the perspective of both the victim and the offender, as well as those who inhabit both categories. This is a pop out section addressing denial of guilt.