the power of denial

i had a conversation with a client the other day about his brother who is presenting him with quite a bit of bafflement. “he (let’s call him noah) is such a nice guy; wise, funny, understanding, compassionate, self aware. and then – there is this part of himself that he seems to be completely unaware of. whenever his brother-in-law gary shows up, he turns into this macho, obnoxious, beer-guzzling football fanatic. even gary is embarrassed. and he just can’t see it.”

my client can’t ignore or avoid the behaviour, either, because he spends a lot of time at noah’s place. “i don’t get it! noah is such a great guy otherwise. but as soon as gary shows up, i can’t stand him, i don’t want to be around him. what’s worse, he loves to make plans when gary is around and drags us all into it. we’re at our wits’ end. we can’t talk to him about it because he insists that nothing is wrong and points out how we trust him otherwise and rely on his sensitivity. which is true. i don’t know what to do.”

i don’t know what the outcome will be; there are many possible scenarios. maybe noah will wake up one day and realize what’s going on. maybe people will start retreating from him. maybe his family will tell him often enough how uncomfortable they are with his behaviour that he will change it or take it elsewhere.

what interests me here is the incredible power of denial that can put a chink into even the most self-aware, conscious person. and i wonder – do i have a blind spot like that, too? how would i be able to tell? as we can see here, such blind spots can exert considerable negative power over people – and i mean that in the plural; noah is by far not the only person who is affected. swiss psychoanalyst adolf guggenbuehl-craig says that one of the best ways of minimizing such situations is to constantly make oneself vulnerable to those dear and near. scary! but what’s the alternative?

i’ll make sure to show this post to my friends and family. if there is a blind spot that they would like me to see but haven’t found a way to do it, maybe this will open a door.


  1. Like you I don’t see many alternatives to asking others and doing our best to listen to their answers.

    Do you think denial is a form of blocking out the environment to focus on one thing – necessary for us to function? This thought came to me while thinking about my response to your post.

  2. This is a tough question, but I ask other people and look at how others respond/react to me. Then there is some self-reflection. I also will ask others.

    It reminds me of the phrase, “love is blind.” My experiece with others and their loved ones including friends are often like that. Or, they feel like others “should” like them and can’t see why they don’t.

    Just my thoughts.
    .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog ..1960’s =-.

  3. If he is tempered, and usually perceptive, perhaps discussing on the spot, openly how everyone sees the situation, with empathy.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.