We choose to see what we wish, or want, to see. We choose to not know what we don’t want to know. Denial is both a curse and a blessing. Denying the reality of the elephant that inhabits our living space allows us to go on living in that space without total destruction of the space and, we believe, our own person.
Granted, in time, we may have to expend all of our energies into ignoring the elephant, leaving us with little or nothing left to get on with getting on. But, we somehow tell ourselves that we have no choice, can’t see that elephant, even as we slap his rump to get him to move so we can sit in our most comfortable chair, then swat him again because he’s blocking the TV.
We can do the same thing with a word. Turn it into that invisible elephant that is hiding there in plain view. When I taught, almost with regularity, at least one person in the room would say that she/he could never write about certain subjects. They were simply taboo. And I would tell them that if they really desired to continue to write, wanted that more than anything else, eventually everything they wrote would lead them to those very subjects.
They would look at me, sometimes with pity, because of my ‘misconception’ about themselves, or the control they had over what they wrote. It was entirely in their hands, therefore their choice. And, to some extent, they were absolutely correct. The problem is that that invisible elephant has a tendency to grow, right there in the darkness of his invisibility. Sooner or later, he will simply become too large, break through the bonds of his invisibility cloak, and whallah, like it or not, he’s out in the open.
That is the curse of denial: it refuses to be forever denied. It is easy enough to deny him when he is still a speck somewhere out on that farthest horizon, but when he is full grown, full blown, there is no longer any room to maneuver around him, and we are stuck, can’t move without making hard contact.
If one has very good friends, as I do, when that happens and one finally admits they have an elephant in their living room, and have actually been dancing all around it for years, good friends will simply nod and say, “Well, I thought you must be aware of him.” If they are extremely good friends, one will not see that pitying look that used to come from my students. Instead, one might get what I have received, gentle laughter and teasing, which is both supportive and encouraging.
Last week, while at my counseling session, the counselor gently dropped a word into the conversation. And as was my want, I denied its reality and danced over to another subject. Never saw it, until later. Time alone, and writing brought me face to face with my own elephant. Whew! Did I mention that I really like my counselor? She lets me do the hard work, allows me to explore, to actually think, and process. She’s an extremely good counselor.
There are two very important aspects in all of this. First of all, I was not at all unfamiliar with the word. Had written, spoken, discussed it thoroughly and often. I knew it well. Had just never attached it to my own person. Now that’s some pretty wicked dancing, and a hell of a lot of denying.
The second thing is that once I owned the elephant, said he was mine, accepted his reality, he immediately began to shrink. Mainly because I had done all of that previous writing, speaking, and discussing. I knew my elephant very well, and actually even understood why I had needed him so much, and how he ever got dumped into my living space in the first place.
I had simply been calling him by the wrong name. My counselor knew his correct name, as did my very good friends. At first, I was startled, even a bit embarrassed. After all, I am the one who loves the naming game, and promote the need for everyone to explore and create their own definitions. But quickly joined in the laughter and teasing because it was all real and true. I could no longer deny it. Didn’t even want to.
And the elephant? As soon as I began calling him by his rightful moniker, he began to diminish in size, satisfied at last to be exactly what he was supposed to be. Denial of a personal truth, creates an insatiable hunger for its revelation. That’s why the elephants inhabiting our personal space, continue to grow to disproportionate size. They simply want to be recognized, called by their rightful names. To be uncovered, revealed, and known.
They are not there to harm or even to injure us. They are there to help us to grow and to develop. What are the topics you won’t write about, the secrets you keep, even from yourself? Maybe its time to let them come out from underneath that invisibility cloak you threw over them like a couch cover. Writing, as always, is a good way to dance with, and explore, those responses.
Maybe you’d prefer to sit this one out. Just remember to swat that elephant when he blocks your view of the path forward, or accidentally steps on your toes.