I want to be my dog in my next lifetime! Dogs have it so easy. All she has to do is sleep, eat, play and bug me to pet her. And she’s always in the moment–not planning tomorrow or ruminating about something dumb she did yesterday.
But the main reason I envy my dog is that she feels totally in control of her world (naively perhaps, but nonetheless). She knows that when she whines by the door, I will let her out. And when I open that door, she KNOWS she will chase those squirrels and that pesky neighbor’s cat out of HER yard.
Humans love to feel in control, and we absolutely hate feeling out of control. It’s the worst feeling in the world. When bad things happen to us, we are often traumatized as much by that out-of-control feeling as we are by the event itself.
As a result of that bad event, we have lost what I call our “healthy denial.” Every day we get out of bed assuming that nothing bad will happen to us that day. We have to assume that, otherwise, we wouldn’t get out of bed!
My husband had a car accident recently. It was a very low impact fender bender, and yet it shook him up pretty badly. It shook him for three reasons: (1) it was his fault, (2) he had a vehicle full of his international students taking them to a sports event, and (3) it was in MY VAN!
It’s taken him a couple weeks to get back to not feeling anxious every time he has to drive somewhere. And he’s still avoiding that particular intersection!
After those inevitable bad moments in life, we have to get our healthy denial back. I do this by telling myself (repeatedly, ad nauseam) that I can’t control what happens to me; I can only control how I respond to it. This is my main motto for living.
Or to put it another way: You can’t control which way the wind blows; you can control how you trim your sails.
I’m also reminded of something one of my psychotherapist colleagues said one time on this subject. “If we live our lives worrying about what might happen, we aren’t really living our lives.”
So let’s hear it for the good side of denial!
To lighten things up, here’s another great example of the difference between fantasy (denial) and reality, and how sometimes the fantasy may be preferable. I know this video has already gone viral but I hadn’t seen it yet before today, and I just had to share. This is hysterical (in a sick kind of way)! But don’t let your little ones see this. They’ll be traumatized.
How about you? Have there been times when you’ve lost your healthy denial? How do you get it back, or does it come back on its own over time?
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