Breaking Denial

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” -Psalm 51: 16-17

The Holy Spirit says, “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” –Hebrews 10: 16B-17

“Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” –Hebrews 10: 24-25

“’Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt—you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed Me,’ declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 3: 12B

Denial is a self-protective psychological template set in place to be a habitual thought pattern and behavioral response, for the purpose of preventing emergence into consciousness of hidden emotions. In Mere Christianity, the great Christian thinker and author C.S. Lewis stated, “There are two ways in which the human machine goes wrong. One is when human individuals drift apart from one another, or else collide with one another and do one another damage, by cheating and bullying. The other is when things go wrong inside the individual—when the different parts of him (his different faculties and desires and so on) either drift apart or interfere with one another.” Denial seeks to keep the parts inside separate, for fear that connection will cause overload to the personality in some way.

Since the first step in breaking denial is acknowledging its existence, certain symptoms are identified that point to its presence. An inability to access feelings or amnesia regarding childhood time periods are primary indicators. Also, when a person’s behavior is challenged by others close to him, but is perceived in a significantly different manner by the individual himself, a denial system may be in operation. Sometimes a sufferer can identify some feelings, but others are completely inaccessible (e.g. feeling anger, but nothing else). He may be prone to a cycle of complaining, whining, and criticizing, denying the grief that underlies this substitute behavior. In general, to the extent denial keeps us from facing truth about our pain and sin, we are fragmented and unhealed.

Following are some suggestions directed to the injured one, for breaking denial and facilitating release of repressed heartache:

  1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to soften your heart so you are sensitized to buried and frozen emotions. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you His clarity in understanding the wrongs committed against you, and the wrongs you have committed against others.
  2. Make a decision to stop minimizing and excusing sins committed by abusive perpetrators, and admit honestly the emotions you hold toward these perpetrators. For example, stop saying, “I’m just a little frustrated,” when in reality you are bursting with rage and hurt.
  3. Be willing to stay still long enough for emotions to emerge. Busyness and distractions are often used to hide from feelings. Sitting quietly for a time with no other goal than to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you will often eventually bring emotions welling to the surface, if you have asked for this and allow it to happen.
  4. Admit your addictions. Any addictive behavior has the function of binding up emotions to keep them “stuffed.” If you are willing to abstain from addiction, this will facilitate emotional release. For example, consciously turning off the TV or Internet, or refusing sometimes to compulsively eat, can help the process of coming present to God’s memory awareness.
  5. Practice releasing emotions in a safe place, such as in your car or when the kids are gone. Speak loudly when appropriate and allow your voice to reflect the intensity of your feelings. Don’t hold back. Often, if you allow the rage to surface, the pain will come out. Be creative in your expression. A victim went to a junkyard with a friend and a whole box of raw eggs, tossing them one by one as she vented her anger. Another person pounded a tree with a stick to express his pain.
  6. Allow yourself to be vulnerable when the Holy Spirit starts to bring up emotions. Let the weeping come. Don’t push it back down. Speak honestly what is in your heart. God already knows the deepest feelings you have hidden in denial. He loves you the same, with or without those feelings. It is you who needs to face your pain, not God. No matter how much He would desire you to release your pain, so you can ultimately relinquish it to Him for healing, He will not violate your free will if you choose to shut down the tears or rage.

We all have a natural tendency to disallow hard truths; we all have to force ourselves sometimes to face reality. Often denial must be overcome repeatedly at many different levels in the healing process, especially when childhood pain was severe and ongoing or never adequately processed with caring adults. Regardless how difficult or repetitive the confrontation with denial, its hold over the individual’s awareness must be broken for the heart to heal.