If you read my previous post, “Compartmentalization,” you see that I had a hard time understanding the relevance of thinking about denial. Yesterday, I recalled another aspect of denial. Prior to D-day, I was in denial about the risks I was taking as part of my secret adulterous life. I risked disease, humiliation, and so much more, not only for myself but also for my family. The whole time I was taking these risks, I told myself, “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to me. I will be lucky.” There was absolutely no logical reason to tell myself such unlikely things. That self-talk was certainly a pathological denial about my own behavior and its consequences. I buried my head in the sand.
This shows me that denial and lack of integrity were just two terms for the same ailment, in my case. I did not have the integrity to reconcile my selfish life with my so-called normal life. When I was immersed in one I was simultaneously in denial that the other even existed. For example, as I played with my kids and talked with my wife, I fully separated myself from the knowledge that I had betrayed them the night before. Similarly, as I lay with another woman, I completely ignored even the thought that I had a wife and kids worried about me at home.
Now, I can return to Baker’s question. In what areas of my life am I beginning to face reality and break the effects of denial? The answer is that I no longer separate the evil I have done from my so-called normal life. I share TL’s shock, sadness, and distress about the risks I took, to her and to me. Striving for integrity can also help me be sure not to start down the path toward evil again. If I think an evil thought, I am less likely to accept it if I maintain connection to my normal life. Forgive my simple terminology. “Evil” is a convenient shorthand for selfishness and self-pity. By keeping my two halves together, in the same body at the same time, I can avoid letting one of them overtake the other.