Different Types of Denial
I talked to my mom today because it is Mothers’ Day. Perhaps it was a mistake. I don’t know. But it was surreal.
She blames Michigan’s economy on Governor Whitmer, who is trying to save lives in the state that still has the nation’s third highest number of coronavirus deaths (not cases, deaths). I bet she said, “I never thought of that before,” at least three or four times while we talked. I kept emphasizing that safety is my primary concern and, in particular, my parents’ safety means the most to me. I really don’t care how great the economy is if I have to watch my whole family die. This is a gruesome time. I said, “I really don’t want to kill you guys or the clientele of Goodwill off, if I can help it.”
But it all brought back memories or my young adulthood, with my brothers doing drugs and getting into trouble. Here’s the conversation:
“Did you know fact A?” “Yes, of course.”
“Did you know fact B?” “Everyone knows that.”
“Did you know fact C?” “Well, duh. How could anyone not?”
“So do you believe D (the obvious conclusion connecting the dots of facts A, B, and C)?” “Well, gee. I never thought of that.”
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my mom’s brother, who did cocaine, lived in Brighton, about halfway to Detroit. My brother who lived in Illinois would come to Potterville, about 15 miles southwest of Lansing, and “stop by” the uncle’s house when coming to Michigan. Everyone but Ma knew he was buying coke from Ma’s brother. It never occurred to her. A little common sense geography says, “Uh, no. He wasn’t just visiting his uncle. Brighton is not ‘on the way’ to Potterville by any stretch of the imagination. He had money and was there specifically to purchase drugs.” When she found out years later why he was going there, she got pissed at her brother for selling her son drugs. For the rest of us, it was, emotionally speaking, too little, too late. It was like, “Seriously? Now you’re upset? Where was the outrage when you might have had some impact or influence on the situation? Sad.”
Clearly, there are at least two types of denial. Type 1 is the one we normally think of, where someone does not admit that fact A is true at all. When that doesn’t work, I guess the alternative is Type 2, where you have all the dots and the brain is simply incapable of connecting them. It’s like a whole new level of stupid. Your eyes can see what is going on while comprehending nothing.
The basic problem with denial remains: everyone else has figured out what is going on. The protection of denial is temporary. Reality still comes and bites you in the ass and now you are all alone because people have moved on without you. They think you are so slow intellectually that everyone has concluded that you just don’t get it or perhaps you’re not as smart as they thought you were. Talking to Ma today just drills in the idea that I have been giving her waaaaaay too much credit in terms of having common sense. The little kid in me really needs her to be so much smarter than I am and it just ain’t happening. I feel like her very life is at stake and she and my dad are just not taking the whole social distancing thing seriously. A train is coming, they are standing on the tracks, and I am refusing to be the train that runs them over. It’s just painful to watch them defend their “right” to stand on the tracks. Good luck with that…
So, do I just stop talking to her? I love her and she does mean well. I just thought she was so much smarter…