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Am I In Denial? How Would I Know? 

July 16, 2015

Maybe I’m simply in denial about my motivation. . .But, then I wonder if I’m in denial about being in denial. How would I know?

I’ve spent my fair share of time in a therapists office over the years. I guess having 13 kids will do that for you. Our society still has a problem with mental health issues. It’s odd, to me. We would never think less of someone who caught the flu for going to the doctor to get it treated, or someone who broke their leg, going and getting it set by a doctor. And yet, if someone experiences depression  we somehow think they should just suck it up. If someone needs to deal with a particularly troubling emotional issue, we tend to consider them a bit of a wimp for seeking professional help. 

Physician, heal thyself.

Or, in this case,

Patient, fix it yourself.

I’m not sure why I never really struggled with the idea of therapy. Maybe, it was because I was more enlightened about the mental health profession. (Probably not, but that sounds sort of “nobel.”) Or, maybe it’s because I have family members who have struggled with mental health issues and I’ve seen the improvements as they got professional help. Or, maybe I just don’t care that much what people think. 

I’ve often used the broken leg analogy. We would call someone crazy if they refused medical help to fix a broken leg. Crazy. Funny word, that. I have a friend who struggles with bipolar disorder. He collects jokes about “crazy” people. It’s his way of owning the problem. Like the fat kid who makes jokes about being overweight.

You can’t laugh at me, if I’m already laughing at myself. Or, at least you can’t hurt me by your laughter if I’ve already owned the issue myself.

The idea of denial has always kind of fascinated me. I consider myself fairly introspective. But, if I were in denial, that would be a perfectly normal thought, and it would be completely wrong. Alan Turing, the subject of a recent movie staring Benedict Cumberbatch called “The Imitation Game,” was one of the pioneers of computer science. He suggested that a computer could not create a test to validate it’s own performance. In other words, I can’t create a computer operating system that tests to see if the operating system is working correctly. 

I’ve greatly simplified his arugment, and probably partially screwed up the definition, but the idea is that systems cannot test themselves. This argument explains why we cannot prove the existence of God, for example. If God exists and he created us and the universe in which we live, he, by definition must exist outside that universe. We, bound by the laws of the universe as we are, cannot test (or prove) that He exists outside of it. 

It’s a fascinating theory, and has led to an actual serious discussion about “Is this life one big hologram?” 

Turing’s theories also apply to mental health. If I were in denial, how would I know? I typically know why I do things and why I feel certain ways. This isn’t always the case. At times when I can’t articulate the reasons for my feelings, I know I’m not in denial. I admit, “I don’t know why mentioning “Kansas City” makes me angry.” It’s those other times, when someone says, 

How come you get so upset everytime I mention Kansas City?

I’m not upset.

You just punched the milk carton.

It was crowding my personal space.

As a manager, it’s extremely important to understand your own motivations, fears, biases and preferences. We’ve all worked for managers at times who were great up until you did that one little thing that suddenly turned them from Dr Jekyl (who was the nice one, by the way) into Mr Hyde. 

Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe it’s just me. I wonder if I would know?

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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