Denial: The power of wilful ignorance over happiness

I came across a video last week from Compassion in World Farming in 2014, talking about the reality of factory farming and our willingness NOT to re-consider our choice to consume factory farmed animal products.#1

Her punch line:

The power of wilful ignorance cannot be overstated.

The video presenter ‘Kate’, a food marketer, describes factory farming as systemised cruelty on a massive scale. She points out that the food industry can only get away with it because as consumers we are all prepared to look the other way.

Looking the Other Way

Whether you agree with the message or not, the principle of denial has a firm grip on so many of our problems in life. Let’s face it, we are programmed by our survival instincts to deny uncomfortable situations, then we’re culturally groomed not to accept the emotions they bring up. We are told to Cheer up! Be Happy! Smile!

This, my friends, is not how human nature works. Striving to be constantly happy must end in tears. Our emotional range as humans yields 50% positive and 50% negative emotions in our lives. To resist causes suffering. Suppressing unwanted emotions also blocks your positive emotions, including happiness, love and contentment. Balance must be restored.

Looking the other way is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Avoiding Embarrassment

Here’s how it goes:

Something happens that triggers you. You don’t want to feel the accompanying emotion, which might be disappointment, shame, blame, inadequacy, embarrassment, anger, frustration, guilt, failure.

So, you quickly look the other way.

SPOILER ALERT: No problem ever got solved by looking the other way.

But you still do it, because it’s socially acceptable.

Denial is socially acceptable. Everybody does it, right? When a situation gets a bit uncomfortable, you look away. Pretend it’s not there. Other people collude with you in this and pretend it’s not there too. A big denial party is formed.

A fart in a crowded lift. A drunk guy in church. Snapping at a child when they already feel down. Inappropriate sexual advances. There’s an infinite range of situations we’d prefer to avoid.

Humiliation at Work

Let’s say your colleague is shamed publicly and unfairly at work by your boss – for something YOU did – but you do nothing to support them. You can’t accept the discomfort this brings, but you feel small, weak – helpless to do anything about it. You are confused, doubtful, guilty and overwhelmed. All the emotions you wanted to avoid by not speaking up.

Yet the feeling is coming from inside of you and it’s eating away at you. You wish someone would come and fix it, but no-one does and you’re ashamed of that wish.

No Wonder you Feel Powerless!

When you walk away from discomfort, you are just delaying suffering. It can’t be avoided: somewhere in your system you’re going to pay for it. Giving the emotion the energy of your resistance just builds its intensity. You know it.

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What’s Wilful Ignorance Doing in Your Life?

Are you struggling with denial? Since we can’t avoid our feelings and we will experience the 50/50 negative/positive range of them, we can work towards emotional maturity instead. This means allowing any feeling that arises to simply be there.  You can really LOOK at your feelings and really SEE them as they are and learn to live with them.

Imagine how much more gracefully we would sail through life, if we accepted all our feelings

Feeling Your Feelings

Watch this video on how to manage your emotions better:
how to feel

Photo Clem Onojeghuo

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