One of the most frustrating ironies of the pursuit of a spiritual life is the fact that it doesn’t necessarily make us any happier. In fact, in can make us disillusioned and unhappy before we get close to finding peace. If we only knew this before hand, perhaps we wouldn’t have headed in that direction!
Choosing to not live in Denial means that we get to see how most of us DO live in denial. And, most people are satisfied to live that way. Even those of us who get on the spiritual path and talk the talk, but don’t really walk, are happier than those of us who are walking the walk, at least in the short term. This can get us into big disillusionment as the appearance of what they have seems better than ours, while we are doing all this painful work and they seem to be shirking it.
But, healing is hard work, and it doesn’t feel good most of the time. And, it remains challenging, even after years of experience. There’s great reason for living in denial; the pain we feel at having our illusions unmasked should lend us some compassion for the average person who lives in pain, but denial keeps them from truly feeling it.
Freedom is a huge responsibility, and it is not easy. It would be easier to live our lives out of roles and out of expectations of others. But, real freedom takes work. That is because we get to see past the veil and see places that are hidden in ourselves and in others around us. And usually what is revealed first is a whole lot of muck. So, why do we do this? What is the pay off?
I know that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t tell you that 15 years after I started my spiritual path I’m necessarily happier. But, I am more conscious, more in charge of my own destiny, more understanding and compassionate of others, and at the same time I am more effective in the world. I don’t have a regular desk job, but I have no trouble in manifesting the things I want. I have the husband, the friends, the child, the home, the career I always wanted that I thought would make me happier before I started the spiritual search.
My husband and I have been reading a book called Stumbling on Happiness that talks of studies that show that the more in denial we are, the happier we are. In fact, the worse an experience, the happier we are with ourselves. There is a mechanism in place, like an emotional immune system, that allows us to rationalize without our even knowing it to make sure that we don’t feel too unhappy.
There are people on the other side of the spectrum who have a non-existent emotional immune system. These people suffer greatly, and may need the help of medication and close supervision to become well again. For these people, introspection has become a downward spiral with no benefit because they have no container of safety to hold them. They literally cannot turn the introspection off.
However, there is a balance point in which introspection and diving into pain can be very transformative. In those of us who are committed to consciousness, we’ve consciously turned off the emotional immune system and have allowed ourselves to really get into the nitty gritty of all the hurt and suffering we feel, and we don’t allow ourselves to back away from it, in order to turn those old woundings into strengths. We’ve turned the immune system off, which means that the automatic pilot of being in denial is also turned off.
And there’s no going back once we have done this. Growth occurs, and then the old life doesn’t fit. Life changes, we must adjust, others must adjust to us—this process can be uncomfortable and painful, even though it is necessary.
So, if you come across someone who seems to be deliberately living in denial, it may just be their regular defense mechanism in operation, one that they aren’t aware of. And, of course it is keeping them from feeling pain. It takes a great deal of strength and consciousness to face that pain. Congratulate yourself on your willingness to live a conscious life, but have compassion for those people who cannot go there just yet.