NAME YOUR GREMLIN: Denial

One way you can get out of your way is to name your gremlin. A gremlin in this sense is a self-defeating behavior that reappears in life, work, and relationships that prevents you from achieving a new level of success. Like in the movie by the same name, gremlins usually are latent and easy to live with until they are activated by external or internal factors, either past, present, or perceived future. Naming them can help you to be aware of your self-defeating behavior so you may make intentional decisions that are edifying and rewarding to all involved. The introductory article to this series is at https://renovacoaching.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/get-out-of-your-way/ .

Denial is a common gremlin and usually works best in cooperation with other gremlins. You have probably heard someone jokingly say, “Denial is more than a river in Egypt.” Jokes given in that way often have a seed of truth, as they were probably pointing out your denial about an issue.

We humans have an amazing adeptness when it comes to denial. Some denial is rather harmless and comical. For instance, I know a man in his 70s and his hair gets bluer each time I see him. The explanation is that his hair is naturally white at his age so he tries to color it a distinguished gray. However, because he has severe corneal cataracts in both eyes, what looks gray to him turns out to be a smurfy blue. For years he has denied that his vision was deteriorating.

Denial is more often harmful illustrated in the following bullets:

  • The woman having an affair but thinks nobody else could possibly know.
  • A man has a family history of prostate cancer; has had chronic deep back or groin pain, but refuses to go to the doctor for a simple test.
  • The diabetic who eats three donuts and simply compensates with a little more insulin—on a regular basis.
  • The person sitting down to a double rack of ribs a month after having coronary heart surgery.
  • The woman who returns to her abusive husband only to get beat up again—for the third time.
  • The organization that refuses to change even though their community and target customer has.

The list could go on, and please feel free to add to it with your own comments.

Denial is a refusal to accept or comprehend the external reality because it is too threatening whether the reality is self-inflicted or external. It takes the forms of lying to oneself and others, ignoring, passivity, passive aggression, and even continued inappropriate behavior. (Doing the same thing over while expecting different results)

The remedy for the denial gremlin is 1) naming it, 2) brutal truth, and 3) radical accountability. The initial problem is the denial of denial, as getting the individual to the point of acceptance is indeed difficult. When there is a window of opportunity to help a person in denial—jump through it! By neutralizing the denial gremlin you will likely also eliminate some other paralyzing gremlin.

Links to the Gremlin series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Blamer
  3. Denial
  4. Scaredy 
  5. Jekyll and Hyde
  6. Pigpen

RENOVA regards,

Dr. Tom Cocklereece

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About Tom Cocklereece

Author, John Maxwell Team Coach-Teacher-Speaker, VP of Leadership & Development at Sales Concepts, Inc in Roswell, GA; CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting; interested in transformational leadership and coaching. Doctorate in Leadership and Administration and Certified Life Breakthrough Coach Trainer,

Posted on October 11, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great article! Helping people uncover denial is really the first step in moving forward towards change. In coaching, we call it awareness. If we stay in the inquiry, I believe we can eventually help our clients have their own “ah-ha” moments that can be life changing! Thanks for the good information here.

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