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Horne: Power of denial: How to confront difficult realities

When I am deciding not to deal with something difficult, the longer it goes on the more guilt I feel, until the knowingness of my reluctance gets so uncomfortable I have to make a different choice.

I had a phone call from a column reader before Christmas and we had a lengthy conversation on the power of denial in relation to changes that occur in the aging process. Denial often comes into play when feeling strong resistance towards change and facing challenges that seem overwhelming.

She described to me how this had played out for her and her children when her husband began showing the symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease and how they all began to slowly face the reality of what was happening and the journey that followed.

More of her valuable experience will be shared in my Jan. 21 column.

Whether it is a spouse, parent, relative, friend or yourself who is beginning to struggle with a limitation due to aging or a health or memory challenge, it can feel overwhelming. Trying to find the “right way” to address these changes can leave one in a state of fear and uncertainty. The truth is, there is no perfect “right way” that covers all scenarios.

I think that this may be why so many families and individuals move into denial and take no action, because the method of approach and trial of solutions can often be a very difficult process to go through. This is a natural response and one not to be judged, as this can be a common path for many of us on the road to acceptance. I told a dear friend in a recent conversation that when I feel most resistant to facing something difficult, I repeat frequently to myself, “I am willing to be willing.”

Willingness does seem to open the door to facing truth and change, as well as receiving outside support from the most unlikely and unexpected sources.

When an acute case of stubbornness arises from internal or external conflict, underlying emotions enter the picture to make coming out of denial particularly challenging.

Courage is a necessary part of the process and acknowledging yourself for it can be quietly affirming to one’s ability to persist.

Many families delay facing necessary transitions when a loved one’s safety and well being are being compromised due to aging. The hope that somehow nothing disastrous will happen becomes harder and harder to deal with emotionally.

Action is needed.  Sometimes help is required to deal with necessary communication and planning. It takes commitment and collaboration to face reality and not to choose denial. When my sisters and I all came together in our readiness to do this, the long overdue need for change for my own mom began.

One year later the final result of removing our hesitancy is her living comfortably in my home, relieved of her increasing fear, surrounded by love and a safer environment.

That solution was not one I could have ever anticipated, but providence led us there and our unique “right way” was found, one step at a time.

So may 2014 be one that begins with successful reflection of your own realities that need addressing. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

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