I believe there are three “Greater Denials” that represent fundamental concepts we then draw upon to imagine all of our other forms of denial. These fundamental denials describe real, physical aspects of our existence. It’s not sane that we consider it acceptable to reject them as we do and our emotional addictions are responsible. We’ve all internalized rules and expectations by which we induce emotions compatible with maintaining these forms of denial.
The first great denial is prerequisite to all others and it is the rejection of our own agency to choose and our expression of this frequently involves rejecting the facts that our elective emotions are both voluntary and deliberate on our parts. We choose to trigger emotional responses in ourselves by thinking and when we reject this idea we become ruled by our emotional addictions through a loss of emotional self control. This can be a progressive thing throughout our lives and it can also occur on smaller scales, happening more rapidly due to stress or hardship. In extremis a person who rejects their own agency may cease to care what is real and this is sure to cause unnecessary suffering in their life and the lives of those with whom they interact. In such a state our decision making capacity deteriorates and conscience is ignored.
The second great denial concerns our place in the Universe and our physical nature. It is anthropocentrism – the idea that we are in any way separate or different or better than our environment or the other forms of life that inhabit our environment. Our civilization itself is modeled on isolating us from our unruly and dangerous environment. We live our lives hiding in boxes to block our the suffering surrounding us as much as to keep out the weather and the insects. Our entertainment frequently centers on fantastical ideas of human capacity that far exceed our natural capacities yet it’s in our refusal to accept what we are that limits us from being more, or better. We’re extremely good and practiced at imagining ideas that permit us to avoid doing the work of honestly accepting ourselves and our nature. At every step of the process we abuse our emotionalism to “make it make sense”.
The third great denial concerns our mortality. I don’t think this should be as big an issue for us as it is, honestly. Death is without doubt awful but no more awful than many fates we suffer while alive. I don’t understand why people fear non-existence when non-existence precludes the possibilities of both awareness and suffering. I read about people terrorizing themselves with ideas of endless and eternal black voids, and stuff like that, but these fears are borne of ignorance of the fact that without a functioning brain we’re not perceiving anything – not even a void. And since this final state is final, and non-existence cannot suffer, what is there to fear but the pain of dying itself? Still, we overwhelmingly do reject our mortality and we disproportionately visit the harm of our false beliefs on our elders when they approach death. We’re more humane to our pets than our families, and we’re reasonably self aware of the disparity – it frequently comes up in discussions.
Taken together, these three denials form the foundation for us to lie to ourselves with abandon about any and every aspect of ourselves and our environment we find unappealing or unacceptable. Some of our other important denials include the rejection of our insignificance on various scales, our sexual denials that are too numerous to list, and our casual rejection of our own and each others basic humanity. We are so far gone we find it sensible to pretend people aren’t real and the more physically distant they are, the less real they become. We attack ourselves similarly, rejecting on demand our basic needs, desires and expressions of our conscience.
When we reject these things we do it for the emotions we induce at the thought. Our choice of emotions in any given situation is governed by the beliefs and expectations we’ve internalized and turned into our held moral values. The deficiency becomes clear, as does its solution. We must expend the cognitive effort to choose to value self honesty more appropriately so that we don’t feel it is reasonable to entertain such dishonest ideas as the denials I’ve described here. While nobody tells us we are free to examine and alter and even completely rewrite our own expectations and values according to any criteria we want – we certainly can – and these pages in part document my process of discovering these aspects of myself.