Denial is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.  The subject may use:
The concept of denial is particularly important to the study of addiction. The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Anna Freud. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind, because it conflicts with the ability to learn from and cope with reality. Where denial occurs in mature minds, it is most often associated with death, dying and rape. More recent research has significantly expanded the scope and utility of the concept. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross used denial as the first of five stages in the psychology of a dying patient, and the idea has been extended to include the reactions of survivors to news of a death. Thus, when parents are informed of the death of a child, their first reaction is often of the form, "No! You must have the wrong house, you can't mean our child!"
Unlike some other defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory (for instance, repression), the general existence of denial is fairly easy to verify, even for non-specialists. On the other hand, denial is one of the most controversial defense mechanisms, since it can be easily used to create unfalsifiable theories: anything the subject says or does that appears to disprove the interpreter's theory is explained, not as evidence that the interpreter's theory is wrong, but as the subject's being "in denial". However, researchers note that in some cases of corroborated child sexual abuse, the victims sometimes make a series of partial confessions and recantations as they struggle with their own denial and the denial of abusers or family members.
A commonly-cited example of spurious denial is the psychologist who insists, against all evidence, that his patient is homosexual: any attempt by the patient to disprove the theory (as by pointing out his strong desire for women) is evidence of denial and thus evidence of the underlying theory. This tension can become serious, especially in areas such as child abuse and recovered memory. Proponents often respond to allegations of false memory by asserting that the subjects are genuine victims who have reverted to denial. Critics reply (some seriously, some less so) that it is the proponents who are in denial about the tenuousness of their theories.
The concept of denial is important in twelve-step programs, where the abandonment or reversal of denial forms the basis of the first, fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth steps. The ability to deny or minimize is an essential part of what enables an addict to continue his or her behavior in the face of evidence that, to an outsider, appears overwhelming. This is cited as one of the reasons that compulsion is seldom effective in treating addiction — the habit of denial remains.
Understanding and avoiding denial is also important in the treatment of various diseases. The American Heart Association cites denial as a principal reason that treatment of a heart attack is delayed. Because the symptoms are so varied, and often have other potential explanations, the opportunity exists for the patient to deny the emergency, often with fatal consequences. It is common for patients to delay mammograms or other tests because of a fear of cancer, even though this is clearly maladaptive. It is the responsibility of the care team, and of the nursing staff in particular, to train at-risk patients to avoid such behavior
In this form of denial, someone avoids a fact by lying. This lying can take the form of an outright falsehood (commission), leaving out certain details to tailor a story (omission), or by falsely agreeing to something (assent, also referred to as "yessing" behavior). Someone who is in denial of fact is typically using lies to avoid facts they think may be painful to themselves or others.
This form of denial involves avoiding personal responsibility by blaming, minimizing or justifying. Blaming is a direct statement shifting culpability and may overlap with denial of fact. Minimizing is an attempt to make the effects or results of an action appear to be less harmful than they may actually be. Justifying is when someone takes a choice and attempts to make that choice look okay due to their perception of what is "right" in a situation. Someone using denial of responsibility is usually attempting to avoid potential harm or pain by shifting attention away from themselves.
Denial of impact involves a person's avoiding thinking about or understanding the harms his or her behavior has caused to self or others. Doing this enables that person to avoid feeling a sense of guilt and it can prevent him or her from developing remorse or empathy for others. Denial of impact reduces or eliminates a sense of pain or harm from poor decisions.
This type of denial is best discussed by looking at the concept of state dependent learning. People using this type of denial will avoid pain and harm by stating they were in a different state of awareness (such as alcohol or drug intoxication or on occasion mental health related). This type of denial often overlaps with denial of responsibility.
Many who use this type of denial will say things such as, "it just happened." Denial of cycle is where a person avoids looking at their decisions leading up to an event or does not consider their pattern of decision making and how harmful behavior is repeated. The pain and harm being avoided by this type of denial is more of the effort needed to change the focus from a singular event to looking at preceding events. It can also serve as a way to blame or justify behavior (see above).
This can be a difficult concept for many people to identify with in themselves, but is a major barrier to changing hurtful behaviors. Denial of denial involves thoughts, actions and behaviors which bolster confidence that nothing needs to be changed in one's personal behavior. This form of denial typically overlaps with all of the other forms of denial, but involves more self-delusion.
An acronym to describe common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender. Psychologist Jennifer Freyd. writes:
"...I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes intimidation, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower's credibility, and so on..... [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the whistle-blower is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is depicted as the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed... The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.
WHEN my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears;
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse:
My breast was full of fears
My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go,
Some to the wars and thunder
As good go any where, they say,
As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come,
But no hearing.
O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.
Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung
O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favors granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rime.
|This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.|
Denial in psychology means that someone denies that something has happened or is happening although he really knows it is true. Usually this happens because admitting it would cause a lot of pain.
Denial is usually the first state of coping with loss. For example, if someone close to a person dies, the survivor's first feeling might be denial, or refusal to accept the fact that the person is really dead.