My new acquaintance, J, with whom I've been having fascinating conversations (about death denial among other things), has wisely pointed out that attributing death anxiety to fear of the last judgement is yet another form of death denial.
(Think about that for a minute!)
Yes, the superpowers of the human mind, when it comes to denial, are nothing less than amazing.
(If you're still debating whether you should give credit to J's claim or not, denial might be at play in you, this right moment!)
In fact, denial might be one of the most sophisticated processes of the human mind. Oftentimes, when we feel confused... I believe denial is at play. You cannot see things clearly when there are good reasons to keep your eyes closed. Is there any situation in your life right now where you feel very confused? Watch out for denial! It's probably hiding in the wings!
But rather than writing an erudite essay on the topic (which would imply me researching the literature for hours... blah...), I thought I could come up with some examples of the unquestionable power of denial.
(Please note that some of the following examples are mine, whereas some were recounted to me by good friends.)
1) The denial of impossible love
You've known her for years. You've spent so much time together. Alone, in a canoe, in the middle of a quiet lake. Alone, hiking, in the middle of a quiet forest. Alone, in your room, chatting the night away. You've taken her out to dinner. You've danced with her. You've given her massages. You wrote her long flowery letters. You composed poetic love songs and sang them to her. But still, after all that time, no kiss. She calls you her best friend. A few times, when you tried to get physically closer, she nicely (but firmly) asked you to please move out of her personal space. And now, well now, she just got engaged to a man she doesn't stop saying wonderful things about. But you still have that little hope, deep in your heart, that some day she'll see the extent of your love, and will fall in your arms helplessly. You tell her that in yet another lengthy letter. And wonder why she looks discouraged.
2) The denial of health problems
You go into labor 31 weeks into your pregnancy. The birth is inevitable, declares the ob-gyn in a concerned voice. All kinds of staff assemble in the room : pediatricians, extra nurses, etc. They bring along tons of equipment for eventual resuscitation purposes. Everybody is calm but vigilant and very serious. No smiles. No excitement. When the baby's out and crying lightly (it sounds like a whisper), the doc looks slightly relieved, but still tells you he's gonna have to take her to the NICU right away. You complain. This is supposed to be bonding time! Skin to skin first contact! Don't ruin our first moments, you protest! Then as the baby's taken away from you before you even had time to take a good look at her (daddy's going with her, at least), you enthusiastically start calling people to announce the birth... and become very annoyed when they fail to share the excitement. Oh, it's so early, they say. Is she gonna be OK? Of course she will! What's the big fuss? Can't you just be happy for us?
It's only a good 24 hours later, after seeing your tiny baby in her incubator, connected to a bunch of beeping machines, and learning that she'll be staying in the hospital for at least a month, that it hits you: no, she's not OK.
(I feel compelled to add, at this point, that some 8 years later, my little precious has proven that she is absolutely OK, and so much more than OK! R is a perfectly healthy and super smart kid, and we're so grateful!)
3) The denial of a crush
You've met someone and quickly developed a fascination for her. Everything she says is the most intelligent thing you've ever heard. Everything she does is awesome. You find yourself admiring her least movement, the way she moves her hair out of her face, the way she wrinkles her nose when she laughs. You notice her lovely scent. Her voice is a song to your ears, especially when she says your name. You enjoy her company so much you'd like to be with her 24/7. When you're talking with her, you feel compelled to touch her. When you're not with her and the phone rings, you jump out of your seat, with the hope that it's a call from her. You check your email every 10 minutes, and feel deep disappointment when there's no message from her. You pay particular attention to your looks when you know you're gonna see her. You find yourself daydreaming about her. Then she's in your dreams at night. You get butterflies in the stomach thinking about her, and even more when she's around. But since she's a woman, and you're also a woman (a straight one!), this can only be intense friendship, right? RIGHT?!?
4) The denial of death
Your dad just passed away a few weeks ago, and when you go to your parents' place, even though nobody's using his office anymore, you could swear you can hear, when the house is otherwise silent, the sound of his chair rolling, of his file cabinet opening and closing, of his steps on the floor. You don't believe in ghosts, yet the sounds are very convincing. Could your brain be playing such a trick on you?