Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living a Lie

As part of my listing as a Clinical Psychologist in Psychology Today, I receive their bimonthly magazine. I wanted to give a shout out to their article Living a Lie in the February 2013 edition. When I read it, I thought yes, that is exactly what I do. I help people identify the lies they tell themselves and to acknowledge and ultimately accept aspects of reality.

Denial is a form of protection for the mind. We are not ready to let go of our denial until we have at least some resources to face reality. Facing reality can trigger painful and difficult feelings such as loss, anger, hopelessness, anxiety, shame, inadequacy, vulnerability, terror, uncertainty, or resentment. These feelings can be so overwhelming and alarming to the brain that it blocks them or leaks them out indirectly.

In my office, I regularly meet with people who identify as LGBTQ and people with histories of trauma and abuse. People who are LGBTQ may begin their identity formation process by denying that are not straight and not their biological gender (see my Coming out Scale), largely because they are afraid of the implications of that admission for their own self-identity and their relationships to others. People who have experienced repeated trauma and abuse are usually lied to by the abuser(s) and may even adapt by literally forgetting about the presence or the extent of the abuse, at least temporarily. (For more on trauma and dissociation, click here).

Facing reality is a process whereby you gradually expand your understanding of yourself, the people around you, and even your place in the cosmos. Ultimately, this can be freeing and life-giving. In the short-term, it can be difficult and the journey is easier when you are not traveling alone.