The great denial

My house is very messy.

I freely admit it, but even so I forget how it might be discomforting to someone who prefers a tidier home.

It’s amazing how your mind can become so accustomed to a pile of magazines, a cluster of toys, or even a row of empty wine bottles (I’m going to reuse them, I swear!) that they barely register in your consciousness.

Yet as dtcwee points out in a comment to the previous article, this is an instance of denial.

Acceptance in this instance would mean accepting both that the house is actually very messy, and that on some level I don’t like it being this messy.

By contrast, denial seems to intervene by saying “I’ll tidy it later” (not unless I really have to), or “I have more important things to do” (watching tv is more important I guess). The purpose of denial is to stop me feeling bad about the mess. It’s an alternative to accepting the bad feelings that exist in me because I don’t like the house being this untidy.

Denial injects unreal thoughts into my experience, shielding me from the full force of reality. It takes me into a false world, a virtual reality made up of thoughts, excuses, rationalisations, and imaginary futures.

Don’t feel bad about the untidy house, imagine that you will clean it tomorrow when you have more energy. There now, doesn’t that feel better?

Unfortunately, this respite from bad feelings is based on a delusion. It is a refusal to accept the reality of the present and the reality of unpleasant feelings.

What if I accepted it all instead?

I would accept that the house is messy, and accept that I don’t like it being messy. Next I would accept that I feel bad when I tidy the house, and that’s why I continually put it off as much as possible.

Now if I proceed with tidying despite my bad feelings, I’m going to discover a whole lot of internal clutter that corresponds with the external. Having to deal with piles of stuff will inevitably bring up a range of worries and insecurities: guilt over things I was meant to read or fix or work on but never did. Indecision over how to dispose of items without feeling irresponsible. Insecurity at throwing away things I feel I might need at a later date. Compounded lethargy in the face of tedious tasks I might have put off for years. Shame at not being more organised, more efficient, or more hard-working.

The clutter might as well be symbolic, but that’s often the case with parts of reality we deny.

 

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