November 18, 2017

Denial

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Times have changed and immediate gratification is valued higher than long term planning. This is certainly one of the reasons universal design is slow in being widely adopted. Another is the reluctance to acknowledge our aging bodies. This is the denial of our becoming old, frail and helpless. Burr … shudder. I don’t like thinking about it any more than you.

When I consider denial, it’s not just my old age I deny. There is a long, long, long list of denials. I’d like to blame BP for the oil crisis in the Gulf, but it’s me. I am the consumer of their product; I’m not planning on giving up heat, electric and gasoline. I pretend that I take good care of my health but I don’t. I excuse some of my addictions as OK. And the list starts to grow. Close examination of all my denials is depressing, overwhelming and leaves me feeling hopeless. Better to deny that I am in denial just “get on with it.”

Denial of denial is no good either. Now what? A close look is painful and pushing it away doesn’t work either. I need help. I am always looking for a method, something that helps me do what I know in my heart I have to do. I have to face these demons, but how? How can I face my denial and not feel that I have to change everything about me and the whole planet?

The answer is a shift in how to approach denial; therein lies the magical method that I was looking for, the way that I can face it and not be devastated by it. The method is simple: just look at your denial. You see, denial is an “is,” as in it’s in the present, not the past or the future, not a cause or a solution. Denial is in the present, now, in this moment. My method? Here it is: Consider what you deny; now look deeper; keep looking; and, when the urge to take flight arises, hang in and look some more. See for yourself how long you can see the denial that’s in your life – all of it. Stay with it… Now stay with it a little longer. Keep looking! Can you do it for two minutes? Not bad. See if you can do it for five.

There’s nothing you have to do, is there? Denial is part of your life and it’s sure part of mine. In fact, we are all experts in denial. In fact, some denial is necessary for living. However, this little gem of a method provides freedom. Denial ceases to have a grip over your psyche. You feel a little lighter. What, if anything, you want to do about your denials now becomes choices, not obligations.

This method is an exercise; it’s a maintenance program for your psyche. Do it on a regular basis – maybe weekly. Just sit quietly and go down the denial rabbit hole. Look, notice, observe. Go as far as you can. Remember, you’re in the present. It’s about being with denial, not managing it. When you are done, look around. Better, eh? Yes.

Using universal design to improve our lifestyle no longer is a threat because we are not pushing away those things we like to deny such as aging. Now universal design is easier to talk about. And maybe, just maybe, it becomes a long-term plan that we choose because it’s a little more appealing than some instant pleasure.