Several years ago, as I was driving home to Illinois from a friend’s home in Indianapolis, I drove east on I-94 instead of west. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I caught it quickly. However, that’s not what happened at all, and before you know it I saw the sign WELCOME TO OHIO. Can you imagine? My heart sank. Basically, I drove SEVERAL HOURS in the wrong direction.
You might be wondering, how does somebody drive hours in the wrong direction before realizing it? Trust me, I was wondering too (as was my husband, who had to deal with me crying on the phone while simultaneously wondering how did she DO that?) It’s pretty well known among friends and family I have no sense of direction, but this was pretty bad. Admittedly I felt pretty dumb about it for quite awhile afterwards.
Luckily, I know I’m not the only one who has done something and later thought to themselves, “how did I manage that one!?” Mistakes, big and small, illustrate to us the importance of dealing with reality as it is and not how we want it to be, paying attention to our lives and what goes on around us, and accepting parts of ourselves we maybe don’t want to accept. The great part about mistakes is that if we choose to, we get to learn something about ourselves, reflect, and choose differently next time.
I like to think of my little journey to Ohio as a good metaphor for denial. Denial is not admitting that there is a problem. Most people associate denial with addiction. However, denial can creep up in a lot of areas in our life. At its best, it protects us until we are ready to deal with a problem. At its worst, it convinces us in the long term there is not a problem (even when there is.) Luckily, my denial in this instance didn’t come with any devastating consequences (just a really long drive back to IL!) but often denial of reality can be very problematic.
Looking back, there were MANY obvious clues I was going the wrong way. But when we are in denial, we ignore or rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit in to what we want to believe. In denial, you will ignore many signs that may prove your version of reality wrong, but because you are so set in believing what you wanted to believe, you ignore them. Dealing with our denial means working with a far less pretty picture of reality, and maybe coming to terms that there is some work ahead of us.
We all have parts of ourselves we don’t like. I’m still just terrible with directions. But now that I can be more self-aware, I can be very conscious when I’m driving or parking my car to be aware of my surroundings and where I am going. So if I’m with a friend, they might laugh when I have to text to myself exactly where I parked- but I’ll know what’s best for me and what I need to do because I’m honest with myself.
If any of this resonates with you, feel free to contact me, Laura Novak, LCSW, CADC at (847) 336-5621 x151.