A psychotherapist looks at the complexities of denial and suggests ways to gently and gradually gain some control over denial-based behaviors.
Wright puts everyone, including himself, on the couch to make the case that denial is among life’s greatest limiters, but it typically escapes our notice. In fact, he explains, we’re often deeply and disadvantageously invested in not noticing what we’re ignoring. We may cling to a miserable status quo owing to a fear of change and low self-esteem. Worse, invoking willpower to overcome excessive drinking, overeating, smoking or nail biting will likely fail repeatedly and make us feel helpless to change until we understand what drives our willful ignorance. Only when we begin the painful work of clearing away the clouds of our denial, the author maintains, can we hope to make measured progress toward transformation. Patience, persistence and self-empathy then allow for small, successive feats of progress—though not great leaps—as we begin to counteract genetically predisposed, neurologically ingrained behaviors that may go back to infancy and childhood. At its best, this book of high intent provokes healthy if uncomfortable introspection. Many are likely to have flashes illuminating their own particular denial pathology, and for them, the author’s admonition to accept some responsibility while avoiding self-blame is helpful. Wright concedes that what fills pages here abbreviates tomes of material, and this leads to some paragraphs and sentences that need further explanation. But he also writes with impact, as when he discusses empathy: “When we are in denial, we aren’t even walking in our own shoes.”
A flawed but standout effort that rewards readers with new understanding.