But that is one of the incredibly wonderful aspects of psychological denial.
In the vacuous recesses of their own minds, those who deny reality manage to convince themselves that they are "reality-based". One might justifiably ask them why they have an almost obsessive need to so aggressively tout their connection to reality, like some sort of celebrity name-dropper expecting to increase his stature in the eyes of the world: "Oh, by the way, did you know that I'm reality-based?"
Sadly for them, just because one repeatedly claims a close connection to the Big R, does not prove anything one way or the other; nor does it absolve the boaster of providing the requisite evidence to back up their claim. Feelings won't do, I'm afraid; though it is often to those arguments of emotion that the denier will ultimately resort when impeded in his quest to avoid reality.
As a psychiatrist, I would be the last person to suggest that even a primitive and immature psychological defense mechanism like denial didn't have some positive results for the individuals who use it. Obviously, if it resulted in the outright death or dismemberment of the person using it, denial would probably not last long as a viable strategy in the real world; nor would it be particularly helpful for the species as a whole.
The truth is that frequently denial works--at least for a short while--and that is why it is so often resorted to in extremis.
Some of the positive consequences of psychological denial include:
• In the short-term, psychological denial can help a person maintain their sanity--which would be threatened by awareness of a painful truth or reality
• In the short-term, denial can help a person function day to day
• In the short-term, denial can prevent a person from having to acknowledge painful thoughts, feelings or behavior and help them maintain a world view threatened by an unacceptable reality or truth
The operative word in all of the above is "in the short-term." In the short-term, even the unhealthiest of defenses--such as denial, projection, paranoia-- may be creative, healthy, comforting, and coping. And, while their use may strike observers as downright peculiar at times, in the short-term, they may be transiently adaptive.
In fact, psychological denial is a way to integrate one's experience by providing a variety of filters for pain and mechanisms for self-deception. It creatively rearranges the sources of conflict the individual faces so that the conflict becomes manageable.
To some extent, all psychological defenses ultimately function to deny reality. Just the other day, I discussed psychological displacement, for example--the mechanism that underlies Bush Derangement Syndrome--as a way of avoiding dealing with a really threatening and/or painful truth by focusing on a less threatening object:
As we finish the last two years of Bush's Presidency, we are witnessing "end stage" Bush Derangement Syndrome, which manifests itself by the histrionic and blind hatred of anything the President does or does not do.
This "end stage" BDS--like terminal syphilis--has culminated in blindness combined with an insanity so profound, the consequences to those who suffer it--as well as to our country--will likely be quite profound, if not lethal, since they hinder and undermine this country's ability to deal with real threats. (read it all for the full context of this type of denial)
Let's consider some of the negative consequences of psychological denial:
• In the longer-term, denial requires a continued compromises with reality to maintain the pretense that "Everything is fine!" or "If only X would happen, everything would be fine!" Eventually, delusional thinking, along with paranoia and its inevitable conspiracy theories begin to take the place of rational thought in those who deny reality for long periods of time. (see all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists for examples in our own country; or the more recent comments of former President Clinton--once considered a "moderate" democrat, who now fully adheres to the model that the Republicans have manufactured a culture of fear in order to fool the American public into thinking we are at war (read the transcript linked below). See here and here for some examples in the Muslim world, which is rife with conspiracies and which could not exist as a cohesive society without them).
• The denier must then place the blame for the unacceptable reality on someone else and that leads to increased conflict between those who are in denial and those who aren't. Efforts to maintain their denial consumes them and will lead them to escalate their anger and rage as their denial becomes untenable and ever more obvious.
• The denier will begin distort language and logic to rationalize and justify their behavior(examples of this are too numerous to mention, but I have discussed it here , here and here) . Eventually, cognitive strategies and rational argument will be abandoned altogether by the denier, because those strategies are not sustainable and are unable to convince others; at which point the person in denial will simply refer to his feelings or emotions as the sole justification.
• The denier will feel justified in acting out against those who threaten the peacefulness of their fantasy (check out the "peacefulness" and "reasonable" slogans chanted at most antiwar rallies these days). Check out, for example, the attacks and attempts to silence authors like Mark Steyn because his book , America Alone, discusses the genocidal demographic trajectory of Europe as they refuse to acknowledge or deal with the reality of Islamic immigration.
[ NOTE: Considering the fact that Europe has taken this track before in recent memory, Steyn is more of a Delphic oracle, rather than the genocidal maniac he is being portrayed as by those who would also deny reality. Nevertheless, his Canadian Inquisitors--otherwise known as "Human Rights Commission" kangaroo court find him guilty--without benefit of trial:
]While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and indeed any racialized community in the media, such as the Maclean’s article and others like them, as being inconsistent with the values enshrined in our human rights codes. Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.
So in effect the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission, the world in labiaplasty jurisprudence, have decided that, even though they don't have the guts to hear the case, they might as well find us guilty. Ingenious! After all, if the federal Human Rights Commission hadn't been so foolish enough to drag Marc Lemire to trial, their bizarre habits of posting their own hate messages using telecommunications fraud and identity theft would never have come to light. If they'd simply skipped the trial and declared Mr Lemire guilty anyway, they wouldn't be in the mess they're in.
So, having concluded they couldn't withstand the heat of a trial, the OHRC cut to the chase and gave us a drive-thru conviction. Who says Canada's "human rights" racket is incapable of reform? As kangaroo courts go, the Ontario branch is showing a bit more bounce than the Ottawa lads.
• Problem solving and decision-making will deteriorate as the entire focus of energy becomes the maintenance of the denial. In place of rational alternatives, excessive emotionality in general; and specifically anger and rage escalate toward those who are "blamed" for the reality that does not conform to the denier's worldview. (consider the lack of any specific ideas in the Democratic party's agenda; or it's reflex negativity toward any substantive position or any compromise offered to them.
• In the end, interactions with those in denial are characterized by the denier's frequent smugness; sense of superiority; arrogance; belittlement of alternative views; and undiluted hatred toward anyone or any idea that questions their worldview.
• Finally, in the long-term, denial will always bring great harm to the individual using it and all who happen to be in his sphere of influence. It may lead to his death or many deaths when practiced by groups or larger societies. It will certainly leads to all sorts of dysfunction and destructiveness; even if--for a brief time--the denial gave the individual or group a sense of calm or control over their world because it blocked out the forces that threatened to upend that world.
The Democratic party's consensus on Iraq varies from day to day; First it was ("Victory is not an option") ; then: the Surge can't possibly work; next, the Surge isn't working; when it was clear the Surge was working, their response is, so what?
Never have so many been willing to deny so much reality. Any success is an unacceptable reality for them, thus they must distort it in order to maintain their sense of self.
Every person in denial has a hidden psychological agenda--which, in this case, is nothing less than the defeat and humiliation of George W. Bush, the Republicans, and America so that they can return to their 'rightful"' (or should it be leftful) place in power.
Their rhetoric is designed to obfuscate and deny objective reality --which interestingly is a concept they don't even believe in to begin with (or, they believe in it until it become threatening then they seek refuge behind postmodern political rhetoric). The motivation for their continual Bush/Republican bashing is simple: Bush is the current symbol of the left's ideological demise, as its ideology is tossed into the trashbin of history. He is the fly in their utopian ointment; the light shining in their darkness.
Despite the wins in the 2006 midterm elections during which Democrats obtained a small majority in Congress, life has actually been going very badly for the political left in general.
As the real world presses in on them, their voices have become more shrill and hysterical; their rage is escalating out of control. No longer do most of them even bother to argue their points logically; they simply loudly denounce any idea or person who threatens their ideology; or deliberately and with the ruthless finesse of all tyrants and thugs, simply attempt to silence all dissenting opinions. (See the style of one of their heroes for an example of this)
9/11 did not wake them up; rather it forced them to openly move toward what they have supported surreptitiously all along--the elimination of free speech in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism; a dictatorship where the pseudo-intellectual, politically correct priesthood rule; and complete control over the lives of others (for their own good, of course!).
Since their objectives happen to parallel those of the Islamic terrorists, they care not that their behavior enables and encourages the terrorist's agenda. They blithely denounce America and the principles of freedom and democracy out of one side of their mouth, while remaining convinced that their actions are patriotic and are representative of "true" American values.
A while back, I listened in disbelief as Democrat after Democrat denounced the compromise bill that defines for detainees what torture is and isn't. To a person, they paid lip-service to being against torture (whatever it might be); and to a person it was obvious that the detainees "rights" were paramount. How strange that they don't give individuals in our own society the same "rights" to express their religion as they would like in public; or that they denounce opinions with which they differ with such passion. How nice it would be to see them behave consistently for a change....but it isn't going to happen because they just don't get it.
I'm sure that the recent court decision about all this will stimulate even more histrionic moral outrage--particularly since the outrage conveniently obscures the reality that we are at war with an implacable enemy that wants to kill us all.
That's what denial is all about. It allows--nay, it encourages-- the most blatant contradictions in thinking; and the individual does not ever have to account for those contradictions or take responsibility for them because they don't even perceive them! Facts,shmacts.
The left pretends their behavior is motivated from" love" or "peace" or "patriotism"; but these are only words they use to rationalize their actions to themselves, which often exemplify exactly the opposite. Their self-deception and denial is simply stunning in its sweeping grandiosity and self-righteousness betrayal of the good.
When psychological denial distorts or obscures reality, people are far more likely to make the wrong choices and ignore the serious problems; they are more likely to avoid the difficult decisions then blame others when things don't come out perfectly.
Even in politics--perhaps especially in politics, reality and truth matter.