“Denial Is Not A River In Egypt”

by Annie Kaszina on September 16, 2005

Denial isn’t a river in Egypt. It’s
actually a snowball hurtling down a steep slope, becoming ever bigger
and gathering momentum as it goes. Once you’ve started explaining his
bad behaviours away, you just keep on doing it, way beyond the dictates
of common sense and self-respect. Having put him on a pedestal, you’re
left in the mud and slime beneath his plinth; and that is where you
stay, way, way too long.

Original it ain’t, but it still merits repetition: "Denial is not a
river in Egypt". What it is, is a highly addictive behaviour.

It
starts insignificantly enough; an incident occurs which you would have
rather hadn’t happened; words are spoken that are cruel and
contemptuous, words you would not have wished to hear; a behaviour
appears that you weren’t expecting, which is hurtful and dismissive…
Suddenly you’re to blame, though you probably aren’t too sure what for.

Then
it’s gone again. Things revert to ‘normality’, the ‘blip’ is explained
away, or simply not mentioned again. There may be an apology – but
equally there may not – you may be told that you’re making too much of
something meaningless, or maybe although it ‘won’t happen again’ (his
undertaking), you somehow provoked it (your fault).

And you look
at this man in whom you’ve already invested so much emotion (and
self-worth) and you really want to believe him. You probably need to
believe him. So you find an explanation, or justification, for what
happened: he was tired, or stressed, or worried, or jealous or drunk…
and somehow you managed to make the situation worse and tip the scales…
That’s how denial starts.

So denial isn’t a river in Egypt. It’s
actually a snowball hurtling down a steep slope, becoming ever bigger
and gathering momentum as it goes. Once you’ve started explaining his
bad behaviours away, you just keep on doing it, way beyond the dictates
of common sense and self-respect. Having put him on a pedestal, you’re
left in the mud and slime beneath his plinth; and that is where you
stay, way, way too long.

For the longest time – because whether
it is months, years or decades it’s always much too long – it’s your
being mired in manure that keeps him smelling of roses.

If only
women adhered to the "Three Strikes And You’re Out" law – and by
strikes I mean verbal assault as well as physical assault – but we
don’t. The statistic is that, on average, women will endure some ten
times that number of ‘strikes’ before they finally get out. Once denial
is established, fear sets in; a fear that eats away at a person.

This
week I received an email from a woman, which began with the brave
words: "I love this man and I know that he loves me." It went on to
say: "He puts me down and makes me feel like I am less than a dog on
the street."

Maybe, just maybe, he does love her some of the time
in his own heartless, destructive, dysfunctional way. More likely he’s
attached to her in the way that any parasite is attached to what it
feeds off. Doubtless he needs her, even more than she believes she
needs him.

But it’s not love that he feels in the sense of caring
for and being committed to fostering her emotional, spiritual, mental
and physical well being.

A harsh judgement? Maybe, but an
informed one; I’ve been there, done that and still have the T shirt to
prove that I tried to survive in a relationship where ‘love’ was often
a dead ringer for hate.

If you haven’t been there, you’d think it
would be pretty simple to tell love and venomous hate apart. But that’s
the beauty of denial: you genuinely stop being able to see the
blindingly obvious. You can carry on missing the truth, even when it
keeps punching and slapping you in the face. You hang on waiting for
what you are desperate to believe will, finally, come into being. It
doesn’t, of course.

It pains me deeply to think of any woman
throwing away her precious life in this way. Denial is not a river in
Egypt. If you’ve ever seen a dog on a length of chain trying futilely
to break free, then you know what denial is and what it does.

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