Living in Denial

Living in denial is a way of life for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.
I’m sure I lived in denial of my actions and circumstances for years. I may still be doing so, but if so I can’t exactly see it, because the only perspective I have is my own and I can’t see how other people see me. It’s all speculation from my perspective. 
Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.
An excerpt from Out of the Fog:
Most people find themselves in denial in everyday living situations, particularly in handling threatening situations, grief or loss. This is quite normal not to face reality – or pretend it does not exist, as one struggles to cope with difficult circumstances.
Denial can result from experiences, memories or information which contradicts our world view resulting in cognitive dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values. People who suffer from personality disorders often experience cognitive dissonance when they are confronted with evidence that their actions have hurt others or have contradicted their stated morals.
However, with personality disorders, there is a phenomenon known as dissociation – which is a more pervasive, destructive form of denial – where a person is not merely disregarding, neglecting or avoiding the truth but rather forms a conviction or belief around a fictitious set of beliefs and attempts to impose, force or project that fictitious version of reality onto others.
Examples:
A family member calls you on the telephone and 5 minutes later insists that it did not happen.
A spouse commits an act of violence and later refuses to acknowledge it.
A child cannot recall an incident of parental abuse.
A divorced woman lives as though her ex-spouse is still living with her.
What Not to Do:
NT’s can sometimes be stunned to discover that the personality disordered individual in their lives completely believes a completely false reality they have invented. It is common for NT’s to spend a great deal of effort fruitlessly trying to reason, cajole or argue with a personality disordered individual into “snapping out of it”, “waking up and smelling the coffee” or “facing the facts”. It can be hard for NT’s to accept that for a person who is dissociating, the denials they are expressing are the facts – at least at that time – for them.
Under such circumstances, standard communication or negotiation techniques are ineffective – since they are built on the premise that both parties can agree on what the facts are, have the ability to reason and can work towards a common interest or compromise.
What To Do:
Accept that each person’s reality is their own property and everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, think what they want to think and experience their own world without intimidation, control or persecution. That applies to the personality-disordered individual in your life and it also applies to you. That will mean you may have to “agree to disagree” on important facts, history or conclusions.
Remind yourself that one person’s opinion of you does not define you. You are you. Seek out the counsel of wise, caring and supportive people who you can trust to help you rebuild your self-esteem.
If someone says something which you believe isn’t true, it is appropriate to declare “I don’t see it that way”. Once!
{ -What I like about this is that it is non-confrontational way to approach a disagreement. Often when you are in disagreement with someone as emotionally volatile as one with a Borderline Personality Disorder they will react strongly and lash out at any affront to their world view or perception. “I” statements, do not imply anything wrong with the other persons perspective, only that you are coming from a different place. – Haven }
If you, or any children in your care, are being exposed to abuse of any kind, take appropriate action to protect yourself and your children.
After that it is appropriate to walk away from any further discussion and go about living your life in an emotionally and physically safe, healthy, and productive way.


Hm. I agree for the most part but not about the dissociative tie in. I do have a pretty severe dissociative disorder and I don’t agree that it is a form of denial. Not in the way they phrase it, “… forms a conviction or belief around a fictitious set of beliefs and attempts to impose, force or project that fictitious version of reality onto others.”  In my experience, dissociation is not something I can choose to do. It’s a slipping out of my reality. I can ‘check in’ and know that I am actually in reality but I feel other. It’s not a choice by any means. It’s something that happens in order to remove me from a painful or uncomfortable experience, but I can still perceive the world around me in a way that is not delusional. It’s also not something I project, or even can project, onto anyone else. It’s a sense of being detached and removed from others, not imposing onto others. I talk a lot about dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization.
Anyways.
Denial. This is pretty much how I lived in my relationship with Evil-Ex. I wanted to believe the lies and manipulations he told me to keep me, which were in complete opposition to how he acted, in complete opposition to what I believed I deserved, in complete opposition to what I wanted from a significant other. I knew how he was treating me, but I couldn’t reconcile it with my emotional attachment to him, what I wanted from him, and lived in a state of perpetual denial. I also lived in a state of denial that my actions and reactions were appropriate; for most of my life really. Instead of being able to see {in reality} what I was doing, I was/am only able to feel how it affects me. I know the circumstances that ‘caused’ these feelings, and from there how I reacted was ‘justified’.  I may have been overreacting but I wasn’t wrong. I was the wronged. In my relationship with Evil-Ex I actually was the wronged. However, my relationship with my parents and siblings growing up, this was not the case. I was wrong and in utter denial that the way I functioned in my world was not appropriate.
I want to make this clear. Just because we have a Personality Disorder does not make us always wrong in our perceptions. They may be skewed, but like anyone else in this world we occasionally are on the receiving end of misbehavior which is not a product of our disordered reality.  I also want to say that denial is generally subconscious and not intentional. In order to heal, we must get out of denial.
*NT = Neuro-Typical. I use this to refer to people that are not Personality Disordered. A lot of places use Non {BPD} as well.

Clash of the Realities – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance – is a psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values. People who suffer from personality disorders often experience cognitive dissonance when they are confronted with evidence that their actions have hurt others or have contradicted their stated morals.
“It’s is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions {or holding on to past beliefs, attitudes, and actions in favor of more logical, update, or fully functional ones}.  Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. A closely related term, cognitive disequilibrium, refers to the experience of a discrepancy between something new and something already known or believed.
Experience can clash with expectations. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence**. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior. For instance it can lead to this pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one’s dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern ‘adaptive preference formation’.”
**People with personality disorders are not only biased, but their inability to relinquish previous choices is ingrained in their character. It’s not simply a choice to not change something. It’s a mental predisposition to create a steady, unalterable whole.
“Another overarching principle of cognitive dissonance is that it involves the formation of an idea or emotion in conflict with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as “I am a successful/functional person”, “I am a good person”, or “I made the right decision.” The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one’s choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of dis-confirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms.”
This may be a big contributor to why it is so difficult for someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder to accept change, or why we fight against it so hard.
Constant confliction. When it’s so hard to make a decisions, finally having one set decision, a solid belief, even something small is like a little life raft, something stable to hold onto in a wash of turbulence. When you’re confronted by something that threatens to dislodge that stability it can be panic inducing.
Imagine standing in a river. The current is never steady. Sometimes it rushes faster, sometimes it pushes gently. You’re not ever sure what to expect, what resistance to offer; how to brace yourself.  Forming a solid belief, wanting to believe something definite, is like finding a big rock to hold onto in that river. No matter what the force of the current, that rock can keep you from drowning. When someone presents you with evidence contrary to the belief, it’s like applying an oily film to that rock. It’s like having someone slowly/quickly chip away at that rock. You may recognize that this rock is no longer going to provide that safety it had before but it’s held you up for so long, been the only thing keeping you from getting swept away so you instinctively try to hold on. The erosion of this belief means part of you is set adrift again and you’re not sure when or where your feet will touch bottom.
It may also lead to the degradation of our beliefs in general. At least temporarily. Because then it makes you question what other beliefs you held that may not be correct. And slowly everything starts to crumble. Question everything. All or nothing thinking. If I’m wrong about this, I must be wrong about everything. If I can be right about that, then I’m probably right about everything else. Everything fits. Everything has a place.
When you have one belief, and then are presented with another, it’s easy enough to see how the new belief logically applies so you may want to adopt it (let go of the rock in favor of one that’s not being chipped and eroded away), but at the same time you still want to hold onto the one that has made so much sense to you for so long.
Cognitive dissonance can explain a lot of the fear and anxiety in someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder. So much of our lives revolve around other people, our relationships to people, our own sense of identity, etc. All of which, normally, are constantly evolving and changing things. However someone with BPD, gets comfortable with one idea, one person, one trait, so when it changes it calls into question everything we knew about it, almost as if it left the course of natural continuum. Like, it’s not the same thing evolving, but one thing now being different, the old thing lost. Trying to hold onto the thought that this thing is still the same thing, but also different, and just because it’s different doesn’t mean we have no relevance with it, we do still have a place/hold with it, and change is not necessarily a bad thing… it’s so very difficult. When you’re used to, or afraid that changes will lead to abandonment, the abandonment of ideas and beliefs while also seeing the relevance of incorporating new ideas is one massive anxiety ridden conflict.