Since I put up the post "IN DENIAL" the other day, I have had a number of emails asking me how one goes about dealing with people in denial. Here is a typical email on the subject:
Great post, but can you be a little more specific about who can relieve these people of their denial and how to do it? Shouldn't President Bush be doing more, and more often?As I mentioned in the post, making people aware of what they are doing is actually the only way to deal with denial. By doing so, you make their denial a completely conscious action, instead of a partially conscious (or less) behavior. Then they face a clear-cut choice: either to continue to deny (but now it is conscious) or they can face reality and do what needs to be done.
In therapy, this can work because people are (hopefully) motivated to change--but not always. It is always very hard to give up a cherished belief for anyone. It rarely happens the first or second or twentieth time that they are confronted with the truth. But because there are long-term consequences of denial, it is worth the effort of trying to intervene.
In discussing and pointing out the facts over and over again; trying to make it as obvious as possible what the real situation is, there is a strong liklihood that those who are not motivated to change, will not alter their system of denial--until and unless those consequences come to pass. As an example, you can look around the blogsphere at all the people who were happily moving along in Leftist circles when 9/11 happened. This was a transforming event for many because for the first time they saw the concretization of their abstract principles. It forced them to rethink and reconsider some of the cherished positions they had held.
But it is important to remember, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. If 9/11 was not a big enough wake-up call, then one wonders what will shake some people out of their extreme denial about Islam and Islamofascism.
I think Bush et al have done a good job initially confronting the reality of the threat; but there was always bound to be a certain amount of rage and hysteria by those who remain firmly in denial. Bush and his administration were certainly damned because they reacted in a healthy manner to the threat; but they would have been damned even more if they had done nothing. Let me say to the trolls who inhabit my comment section and who believe that I "worship" Bush, that they are mistaken.
Bush is only human. He and others in his administration and in the military have made mistakes. But what else does one expect in the real world? Nothing is perfect--either in human thought or human action. What matters is that we do what we need to do--and what is right-- and fight on, despite our mistakes. Our hope is that we will achieve a victory for our side before being taken down by the gods of remorse, recrimination and obsessive perfection.
With a MSM so clearly determined to undermine the war effort and turn it into a repeat of Vietnam, anything Bush, Cheney, Generals, etc. say has been distorted and trivialized. Every action they have taken has been met with fierce opposition, much of which is motivated by denial and its attendant psychological convoy--projection and paranoia (and the links are relatively mild examples--in the latter example, I am still waiting breathlessly for the dire predictions of an imminent "Bush theocracy" to be implemented). These latter defenses are almost always present when denial is in the neighborhood, since denial often leads to other psychologically primitive and/or neurotic responses in the determined user.
That doesn't mean I don't think the Bush Administration should confront it more frequently; or that I am not happy with the most recent efforts on the part of the White House to make the public more aware of what is really happening. They should do it often. As for the mistakes they have made--I believe they have made good faith efforts to remedy what errors they can while still moving forward in a complex and historically new type of war that the enemy has brought to us.
It is simply that they have had their hands tied behind their back for several years and have only recently actively tried to break out of this political conundrum of denial, projection, and paranoia that motivates much of the opposition. And that observation about the opposition is a kind thing to say on my part--since many are also motivated by sheer malevolence, hatred of America, combined with an untrammelled desire for power.
But I am not trying to reach people in that latter group. They are beyond psychological help and will never willingly face the consequences of their actions. For them, it will always be someone else's fault when their intellectual and moral positions bear bitter fruit. Sadly, it is often the case that many innocent people will be dragged down along with them when the consequences hit.
Reality is the ultimate cure for those in denial. Either they deal with the real world; or they face the consequences eventually -- sort of like the deer standing frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car.
[other cartoons by Paul Nowak here)