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Stages of denial

Some interesting notes on the stages of denial from here:

Barrett and Trepper, in an article in the Family Therapy Networker (now the Psychotherapy Networker) in 1992, pointed out that families have multiple layers of denial, which often come out in the same order. As one breaks through each of these resistances, the next one pops up in its place.

The presence of these many stages of denial is not a reason to avoid attempting to metacommunicate. The presence of multiple resistances represents multiple problems to be solved, not multiple reasons for giving up. [....]

Barrett and Trepper’s predictable stages of denial are as follows:

1. Denial of facts (“it never happened; you’re a liar!”), followed by:

2. Denial of awareness (“I was drunk,” or “I didn’t realize I was neglecting you; you should have told me”), followed by:

3. Denial of responsibility (“You were the one who was seductive,” or “If your mother didn’t deny me, I wouldn’t have to have turned to you.”) and finally:

4. Denial of impact (“It only happened a few times,” or “It was only fondling,” or “OK, so I beat you. Why do you always have to dwell on the past? You’re just too sensitive; get over it!”).

...Yep, I've seen all of that.

The way of my people is to skip stage 1 and go straight to stage 2: "I don't remember." Neat, effective, keeps you arguing about whether or not they remember rather than focusing on the issue at hand. It also puts the power in their court because they can disremember anything inconvenient for as long as they like.

Someone online came up with a great reply: "I do remember, so we'll have to go by my memories." I haven't had a chance to use it, but my prediction is that when the power abruptly shifts to the other person's court, the person in denial will find their amnesia miraculously cured.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2014 05:24 pm (UTC)
Note to self. I've seen the "I don't remember" thing happen truthfully (I have Swiss cheese brain) but I can also understand it being convenient in dealing with personal issues, and suspect I have seen it used as such.
Apr. 9th, 2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
Oh, I get you. I've also failed to remember things I did that were hurtful to others, and it's appalling to realize what can fall through the cracks. But non-toxic people don't act as though "I don't remember" means "It didn't happen." (I once apologized because although I didn't remember doing the thing I was accused of--it happened years ago--it sounded like something I'd have done then, and I believed the friend who told me. My crappy memory doesn't absolve my crappy behavior.)

A toxic relative has told me he didn't remember emotionally charged things that happened less than a week ago, refused to look at the proof I was holding in my hand, and quickly shifted to "I'm tired" and "This is not a good time" when pressed.

Mind you, he wasn't any good at it. A skilled abuser trains his support system to believe that if the abuser doesn't acknowledge something, it didn't happen. (At least, not really. Not in any way that counts.) Said toxic relative figured out how to prevent people from openly challenging him, but he didn't learn how to make us like him for it.
Apr. 9th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
I have also apologized for crappy behavior that I probably did (although it might actually have been that someone else did the truly crappy thing, and I was lumped in because I was supposed to tell said person not to do it. Details are seriously fuzzy.)

Some of my past abusers were really good at making me doubt my own memory or even physical evidence as well. However, I'm smart enough to have eventually pieced together what was going on, although that doesn't necessarily help the emotional aspect of things.
Apr. 11th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
Guh, gaslighting. Making you doubt yourself is one of the worst types of abuse. You can get away from your abusers and their weird, warped, untrustworthy view of the world, but when they've taught you to believe that your own view is untrustworthy...

*hug* I'm sorry you went through that. I'm glad you're out. We should talk, if you're up for it, because it sounds like we've been through the same rodeo.
Apr. 10th, 2014 05:10 am (UTC)
*makes some notes*
Apr. 11th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
Alas, yes.

Within the Wall of Denial, by Robert J. Kearney, has some techniques for helping others through denial. My copy is supposed to arrive next week. I can lend it to you if you like.
May. 1st, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Did I ever thank you for this kind offer? Thank you. :)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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