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Susan Smalley, Ph.D.

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Denial is the Devil

Posted: 09/06/09 02:26 PM ET

I have a friend who loves to cook and eat. Her talent in life is cooking and she - like Julia Child - brings that joy to her family, friends and community. But my friend indulges herself too much as evident from her weight. She is by all definitions obese and growing larger with age.

I remember the size of Denial. When my husband 25 years ago faced his 'demon' alcohol a friend at the time told me he thought he had a drinking problem. I feigned shock and insult; denial was in protection mode.

I wonder if I can help my friend see through this tangled forest of Denial and Self-Protection?

Can a friend - a true friend - sit by and say nothing as someone you love grows larger and becomes bitter with time? For over-eating and obesity usually come with other emotional baggage. I should know I lived 8 years bulimic, gorging and purging to survive.

My bulimia reflected an unsteady relationship I had with myself which may be the source of much over-eating, under-eating, or general poor care of the body. My relationship was built on mistrust and disgust. I used therapy and meditation to uncover and change it but there are many forms of investigation. The biggest challenge is to begin to look, and to look with honesty.

When do I eat for other reasons than hunger?
Why am I hurting my body?
What negative emotions drive my actions?

None of us want to see negative emotions or negative thoughts within ourselves so we project them on the world and people around us.

An easy way to see what might drive your own harmful actions is to make a list of people you like and don't like: the attributes of those on the 'don't like' list are often the very ones that drive your harmful behavior.

The process of uncovering negative emotions can only come from within: the investigative journey is ours alone.

I once walked on a road with high black brick walls of Denial on either side. One brick was knocked away and a beam of sunlight shown through. I looked in and saw a magnificent garden of colors, butterflies, joy and bliss. I began to chip away the bricks one by one and soon there was no separation of the garden and me.

May this post be a chip in a wall somewhere so that the exuberance of an authentic life can bring a bulldozer to the rest.

 

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