I think each and every one of us has overflowed the denial toilet at least once. You know how it goes: you’re in a situation that’s maybe not the best thing for you, but there something about it that’s compelling, so you persist in it. All the while there’s that little tickle at the back of your brain saying, “hey, um, I’m not sure this is going to work.” And every time you feel that little tickle of doubt, you hit the lever on the Denial Toilet and sigh in relief as the worry disappears in a swirl.
Except … it turns out that there’s also a denial septic tank, or, for some, a large but nonetheless finite denial sewer system. Whether you’re constrained by the relative modesty of a backyard septic tank, or have an entire municipal waste plant to play around in, eventually you will tax the limits of the system and the denial toilet will back up and make a mess in your carefully ordered life.
And, maybe I can take the metaphor even further. You can tax the system by hitting the lever on the denial toilet so many times that you fill up the available waste repository, but you can also instantly clog up the denial toilet by trying to stuff something down it that’s just too big.
Denial can be useful as a survival mechanism when it protects the denier from information that they are not, at the moment, equipped to cope with. For example, if you’re the survivor of a natural disaster, denial that others around you did not survive protects you from emotional trauma so that your energies can go to recovering, finding shelter and food, etc.
Unfortunately it’s just not a functional way to manage day-to-day. It would be nice if it worked. It would be nice to be able to deny anything that I would just rather not think about. And then are those cases where about 75% of a situation works, which means it’s a bummer when you have to acknowledge the 25% that is disastrous, instead of just flushing that knowledge away.
But, you can’t … or at least not for long. Depending on the size of your denial waste management system you might manage to keep flushing that toilet for a few weeks, months, years, or even decades, but eventually it’s going to back up on you, so the sooner you can face up to whatever it is you don’t want to think about, the sooner you can get on with the business of living.