It’s not denial, it’s filtered acceptance

The New York Times has a brief but interesting article on the psychology of denial, which according to the piece has got a bad rap. It’s actually a useful and necessary process in many types of relationship.

Yet recent studies from fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology suggest that the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships. The psychological tricks that people use to ignore a festering problem in their own households are the same ones that they need to live with everyday human dishonesty and betrayal, their own and others’. And it is these highly evolved abilities, research suggests, that provide the foundation for that most disarming of all human invitations, forgiveness.

In this emerging view, social scientists see denial on a broader spectrum — from benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness — on the part of couples, social groups and organizations, as well as individuals. Seeing denial in this way, some scientists argue, helps clarify when it is wise to manage a difficult person or personal situation, and when it threatens to become a kind of infectious silent trance that can make hypocrites of otherwise forthright people.

The article also discusses a number of experiments where participants ‘cheat’ on certain aspects, but which demonstrate that we seem to manage not only how much we admit to others about the deception, but we also our own awareness of what we’re doing (mostly unconsciously it seems).

Link to NYT article ‘Denial Makes the World Go Round’.

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