Denial

by tamarjacobson

Quote of the day

When I had to prepare a short summary of your book, I wrote that you discuss the abuse of gifted children. Then I was reminded that I should avoid the term abuse, because it is too offensive, brutal and revolting. Instead I had to write that you deal with parents’ "non-understanding" and "disregard" of their children. What’s your comment?

It is very common that you are accused of being offensive if you "call a spade a spade", instead of using euphemistic words. It is everywhere good fashion to conceal the brutality of parents and to offend the people who denounce them. As this is the way we learned to behave, we don’t dare to give it up and we are quickly intimidated. But actually, it is a stifling way

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Hanging out in the Jury Assembly room for hours on end gives a person time for thinking, pondering, reflecting, ruminating, wondering. It is quite good, actually. Some space in the busyness of life. Time to chill. 

Yesterday, I had just such an opportunity. In fact, it must have been six straight hours of sitting and waiting to be selected for a jury or not. Plenty time for reflecting: I thought about how the day before, while looking in the mirror and brushing my teeth, I had suddenly realized that I am intelligent, and that I have been intelligent since I was very young. And, more interesting to me than that was the additional realization: "I am an independent thinker." Now, of course I have known this for some time – intuitively, perhaps even, unconsciously. But, I must say, and I know that this will surprise some of my readers, I have never owned this understanding about myself. Indeed, I have always tried to down play it or, even, hide it. Revelation upon revelation. Epiphany upon epiphany. A person can be in denial about positive things too! A person might need to cover up her successes and achievements in order to survive. As far-fetched as this might sound, it is beginning to make sense.

What is it about intelligence that feels dangerous for me to own up to? In my family of origin, "intelligence" is a valuable commodity. There is much competition surrounding who is or is not intelligent. There are many family myths about it. And, it seems to me, it is narrowly defined and "belongs" to only certain members. Lately, I have been shattering all sorts of family myths about me within myself. It feels like walls are crumbling, glass is shattering all around me, and I am beginning to see clearly for the first time in my life … through my own eyes, and not through mythological lenses. Intelligence comes in all sorts of packages, designs and sizes. Intelligence is not only about having academic knowledge, but also includes emotional smarts, and/or the ability to think outside of the conformist view. In fact, I discovered recently, that I have uncovered a new and exciting treasure trove to explore. Intelligence! And all that it implies about my emotional and psychological development.

I start sneezing as I write this. Five minutes go by and the sneezing continues, preventing me from thinking or writing about my new discovery. I reach for my coffee mug and think about another piece of the interview with Alice Miller that I quoted from at the beginning of this post:

People normally prefer to deny that they were abused. Would you interpret eating disorders, obsession with diets, nail biting, "non-offensive social drinking", thinking about suicide, asthma, taking drugs or even the self-destructive "need" for unhealthy junk food or cigarettes as unambiguous proofs of emotional or physical abuse?

Yes, absolutely. All these illnesses or addictions are screams of the body that want to be heard. Instead of hearing and trying to understand these screams, many have chosen to fly.

You say the body is wise and can’t be fooled. The good news is that if we listen to it we can be cured of physical symptoms. But if we are too busy denying its needs and its memory we condemn ourselves to living in an invisible hell. Everything is perfect, but we are cut off from our true emotions and destined to live a hollow superficial life and our body becomes our enemy. How can we become friends with our body which demands extremely unpleasant truth?

First we have to stop avoiding the truth and live through one or more experiences that the truth didn’t kill us, that in fact it made us feel better eventually. If you decide not to take your pills when you get your headache and to find out instead when exactly the headache
started, what happened just before, you might be lucky enough to understand WHY your body needed a headache just now, what happened today that would make you feel miserable if you gave your full attention to the event. Once you do it, a very painful emotion may arise that must be felt. However, after this feeling is over, a solution to your plight may appear. But in any case, to your great surprise, you realize that your headache disappeared without any medication. If you have already experienced such a spontaneous disappearance of a symptom, nobody will ever be able to convince you that your headache absolutely needs aspirin to go away. The drug prevents you from understanding yourself. But this understanding may be essential for your health
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I smile to myself, breathing slowly and deeply. The sneezing stops. I continue to write. Abuse comes in all forms. It is a harsh word, is it not? The truth will set me free. I realize that as far back as I can remember, I have been ostracized for independent thinking. Bob-the-therapist used to describe that when I tried to express my real self, my honest thoughts or feelings, people tried to push me back down into a box, or silence me. I did not quite understand what he meant, although something would stir and shift within me whenever he would say that. And then – there it was, a couple of days ago, while doing the mundane task of brushing my teeth – a denial screen fell away, and I got it! I understood in my guts what Bob had been trying to tell me for years. Yes! I had not only been shamed for my intelligence, but more importantly, for expressing an independent thought, notion or feeling – for seeing whatever everyone else was seeing – in a different light – and for saying it! I realized instantly why, for years, I adored those students in my classes who are different, non-conformist, who say outrageous things, or who make me think differently about "truths," that I thought were truths. The more the challenge, the more intriguing it is for me. 

Naturally, all these ruminations and revelations these past couple of days have made me as angry as can be for my blindness and stupidity. What a waste of time! Here I am, almost sixty years old, and only now allowing myself to own my intelligence, and celebrate my ability to think independently. This has great implications for my continued research about teachers' emotional development and how it affects their interactions with children. 

There is no time to lose! Still so much to explore and uncover. I believe I have only scratched the surface. There is more to come.

What a productive jury duty day, I had. I must say.