Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Denial Runs Rampant During the Holidays

Recently I was sitting in a courtroom waiting to testify in a capital rape trial. The man on the stand was the defendant’s “alibi” and “friend” who was exchanging his testimony for a deal with the DA on several charges of his own. Attempting to discredit this witness’s testimony about an important time line, the defense attorney had already established that the witness had been using cocaine on the night of the incident.

He continued, “And weren’t you also drinking vodka all day and all night?”

“Not ALL day and night,” the witness protested.

“Well, just how much had you had to drink?”

“Oh, just a few drinks. Maybe a half gallon.” (You can’t make this stuff up.)

The defense attorney continued, “Mr. Washington, you’ve already told us that you drove from McComb to Columbia and back. And you’re currently out on bond. Do you think you should be drinking and driving while out on bond?”

“Oh, I wasn’t drinking and driving,” the witness asserted smugly. “I drank first, THEN I drove.” Even the judge ducked his head to conceal his laughter. Hearing the snickers in the courtroom, you could see from the puzzled look on Mr. Washington’s face that he was thinking, “What’s so funny?”

I’m afraid that sometimes we are almost as oblivious to our own destructive behaviors, and it seems that the holidays are times when denial is especially seductive.


Coming from your and my lips…

“More sweets? Oh, well, it’s the holidays. I’ll diet in January.” (The average person gains up to 7 pounds.)

“I’m too busy to exercise today. I’ll do it tomorrow.” (And will tomorrow be less busy?)

“Sure, I’m drinking more during the holidays. Doesn’t everyone?” (And we wonder why “celebrations” often turn sour.)

“I’ll rest later. I have so much to do now, I’ll never get it all done.” (Stress is made worse by neglecting basic health habits.)

“OK, so I’m running up my credit cards, but there are such good bargains out there right now!” (“Ho, ho, ho!” becomes “Owe, owe, owe!”) “Plus, I want to make everybody happy this year.” (To dream the impossible dream…)

“Darn dryer! I need to get it checked. I think it’s overheating, because it’s shrinking my clothes!”

Take This Quiz

If you secretly suspect that you are knee-deep in denial, here’s a one-question quiz to move you toward reality.

What are you pretending not to know?

This is a brave question. I recently put myself through the written exercise of giving this question as many answers as possible. I was astounded at what I wrote. I challenge you to do this exercise, too…if you’re ready to get honest with yourself.

Take Action

Then take three more steps:

  1. Get the facts. Whether the issue is spending, eating, drinking, drug taking, or whatever…monitor yourself. Keep a written record of what you do, how much, and how often. Review it daily. It’s so easy to minimize the magnitude of the problem until reality slaps you in the face.
  2. Calculate the impact. If you continue to act in this way, even through January, what negative results will accrue? (This is assuming, probably falsely, that you’ll make a drastic change at the New Year.) For example, consider the impact of little to no exercise combined with a five- to six-week eating binge. Think about this. How will you magically have the extra money to pay off holiday debts, when you didn’t have the extra money to pay cash up front?
  3. Change now – not later. New Year’s resolutions are notoriously ineffective in long-term behavior change. Denial kicks in to sabotage them, too. Don’t procrastinate.

Why is denial such a challenge for us, in the holidays and year-round? To be perfectly honest, we all find it difficult to be perfectly honest…even with ourselves.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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