Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Epidemic of Denial

As I sat watching the news tonight I was utterly amazed at the speech that George W. Bush gave on the 'progress' in Iraq. It is simply astounding to me that, as one reporter put it, George Bush can "describe an Iraq that exists only in his mind." The denial of reality is rampant in this administration, but alas, they are not alone. The denial of reality is present all around us in our lives in a thousand different ways. Waking up to reality and 'what is,' I believe, is an essential step on the path of spiritual awakening and self actualization. It is also the hope for our world.

One cannot awaken if they are asleep, or if their head is in the sand! It's true of a President, an administration and a nation's population in regards to the state of the war and the state of the world. It's true of all of us with regards to the state of the environment and the assault that our modern ways of living have on our planet. These are major (and overwhelming) issues, but there are many more personal ways that the human tendency to deny difficult reality shows up in our daily lives.

Addictions are the classic example of how humans can deny their reality. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol who do not realize or admit that they have a problem are the classic example of denial. This is also true of people with 'process' addictions (addictions to behavior like shopping, gambling, relationships, etc.) as well.

We all have experiences of not seeing things that are going on right in front of us, simply because we cannot or do not want to face or deal with them. Examples might be ignoring the effects of smoking or overeating on our health or enduring bad behavior of someone close to us as we rationalize, justify or continually enable it.

We all do it, every day in a variety of ways, from the subtle to the obvious. This is probably one of the most dangerous patterns at work in our world today. Denying reality is what lead to the Holocaust. Denying reality is what allows us all, at the individual and collective level to allow despicable acts against humanity and nature to continue to be perpetrated each and every day.

I once wrote an article about some barricades that were erected in a Jewish Settlement in Israel to shield the neighborhood from gunfire from a neighboring Arab village. The settlement was also guarded by tanks. What struck me most, however, was that the wall of cement was painted on the settlement side with a soothing bucolic scene of rolling green hills dotted with sheep. It was surreal to me. Just on the other side of the wall and the valley beyond was 'the threat.' Instead of facing what was there and finding a way to deal with what was there, the solution was a wall. On that wall was painted what the settlement residents 'wished' was there.... meadows, sheep... no Arabs. It was a perfect example of just pretending something wasn't there, letting the military 'deal' with the 'other side' and going about life as though all was well. Guess what? That doesn't solve any problem... ever. Sticking your head in the sand never solves problems. They just grow and fester while you suck up sand!

I encourage us all to look at everything in our life straight on. Even those things that are scary or difficult. We have to cultivate our vision to see 'what is' and not what we 'wish were so.' Awareness is the first step to solving any problem. Awareness is the antidote to denial.

The lack of awareness that we have in our own lives, and our willingness to stick our heads in the sand over our personal issues, makes us susceptible to that thinking in other people, especially authority figures. That's how things like the Iraq war can be packaged and 'sold' and be allowed to continue on... and on... and on. We dig the hole deeper and deeper every day. That's the cost of denial.

What the world needs now is awareness! We can all do our part in our own lives! Turn and face something you've been avoiding... today!

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