We weigh what we weigh…a key concept I first heard from a sponsor when I was early in my sobriety and had started attending AA. It’s a statement that impacted me then and continues to impact me now. Maybe it’s something that will impact you as well?
It’s not about the load
Before we get into why this concept is so important, I want to let you know where I’m coming from. When I was early in my sobriety, alcohol was obviously no longer my coping mechanism. I had to really feel all the feels of what that brought with it, and I’ll be honest with you; it was tough.
Living my day-to-day without my ‘trusted’ coping friend alcohol was hard. I was in a marriage born out of addiction, and as you may expect, it wasn’t going so well. Naturally, I blamed him for our relationship problems, and alcohol had always been my advocate in my victim story.
By victim story, I mean blaming my ex and others in my life for the problems I had that caused me to turn to alcohol for comfort. In my victim story, it wasn’t my fault and alcohol had always confirmed that.
I wasn’t quite ready to take that radical responsibility, instead kept repeating over and over how others were to blame, and feeling the shame in allowing that to happen.
What Is Victim Consciousness?
When I went through forgiveness training, I came across the concept of victim consciousness, or having a victim story.
It’s the concept where you perceive yourself to have been damaged or injured in a particular way by someone else. Because of their actions, and through no fault of your own, you cannot obtain peace or happiness in your own life. You see others as the cause of your unhappiness, believing this narrative to be wholly true. It’s your story, and your reason why and it becomes part of your victim consciousness, or your victim story. You are the victim, and in that, the power to change your life exists outside of you.
Weighing What We Weigh
Tracking back to what my sponsor gave me all those years ago, the full statement was, “We weigh what we weigh whether we get on the scale or not.”
Pretty deep, right? As humans, we are all obsessed with our bodies. Whether it’s our hair, our face, our weight, our overall image….there’s a love-hate relationship with bodies and society, (and weight loss companies) feed off of this.
I’m not talking about body image right now. There’s a self-hatred that shows up in our thought patterns about our bodies that’s another topic for another day. This is more about denial, and how whether we get on the scale does not matter. The weight is still there, and denial shows up in how we take care of ourselves–or we don’t.
Denial Is Normal…To A Point
The truth about denial is that it is actually a natural coping mechanism of our bodies. It’s considered relatively normal, particularly during times of great trauma or stress. It’s an initial (and sometimes, long-standing) part of the grieving process. Denial can help us neurologically by protecting us when we react to great fear, loss, or shocking news.
We can’t stay in denial long. Our bodies weren’t meant to; our brains were meant to work through things, not ignore them. The weight that comes with denial is protective, but not necessarily something that serves you well in the long term.
Think about it…how many of us won’t even get on the scale because we don’t want proof of why our clothes fit tighter? Denial does help us process pain and uncomfortable feelings but if we hold on too long, it can have serious consequences.
Denialists: Purposed Avoiders
In my research, I’ve learned that the term for one who stays in denial is called a denialist. The definition of such a term surprised me.
Denialist: a person who denies the existence, truth, or validity of something despite proof or strong evidence that it is real, true, or valid.
Why Do People Go Into Denial?
As I’ve said, denial is a method of self-protection. Doing so is human because we try our hardest to protect our emotional security.
While it’s often essential in the short-term just so we can figure out how to breathe and organize thoughts and actions into something productive, it’s just a coping mechanism. It can’t be a way of life.
How do I know this?
Well, back in 2014, I dealt with some vision changes that I thought were just stress-induced. I’d left the corporate world and was starting a business, and the changes happened. Then the headaches came, but again, I just attributed it all to stress. And frankly, I was in denial that anything major was happening because I was too busy to get to the eye doctor.
Until I started losing sight in one eye.
Then I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
And the week before Christmas, after many appointments and an MRI, I heard, “Brain tumor. Very large. May be cancerous. Must have surgery ASAP.”
While you might think that would have motivated me to get out of denial that something was seriously wrong, it instead pushed me further into it. The surgeon said that if I didn’t have surgery, I could go blind permanently and may have other brain issues as well. I had the audacity to tell him I’d think about it and figure out what I wanted to do after Christmas and a trip to Hawaii in January. Denial allowed me to believe I was in control of what was happening with that tumor.
That’s denial for you. Tricking us into thinking we have control because in traumatic situations, that’s what we’re desperate for–some sense of control.
Denial allows us to resist poor outcome possibilities, but theoretically should also lead into giving us the opportunity to absorb and integrate information so we can make good, healthy choices.
In effect, people go into denial to initially protect and absorb, but continue to maintain a sense of control–but it’s almost always a pretense if we are honest about it.
What Are The Signs You Are In Denial?
If you wonder if you might be in denial about something, here are some of the signs:
- You make excuses, and don’t really accept the situation as feasible.
- You refuse to talk about the problem.
- Find ways to justify our behavior – “I’m busy; it’s for the best, etc.”
- Blame other people for causing the problem.
- You keep doing the behavior despite negative consequences.
- Not seeing how this behavior is affecting you or those around you.
- Continued insistence that there is no problem.
Denial In Addiction
Denial is significant when it comes to addiction. That’s why my sponsor gave me the statement–I kept thinking I could handle my problem with alcohol and didn’t need help. I wasn’t weighing it, but it definitely weighed heavily.
I justified my behaviors and rationalized them–I’d only drink on weekends, or only drink wine or only just when with friends.
But I knew I’d never follow through and would always justify my way back to another bottle. Despite being a high-functioning alcoholic, I was in denial about the havoc it caused in my health and my relationships.
Suppressing the truth and suppressing built-up emotions only lasts until it doesn’t. The truth about thoughts and actions and behaviors eventually come to light.
How Do We Get Out Of Denial?
If you are struggling with denial and trying to manage its impact on your life, know that you are not alone. There are ways that you can move from denial into acceptance.
First, accept you are in denial and notice where you might be blaming others instead of accepting responsibility yourself. Look at how you may have contributed to the situation.
Then, look around. What kind of environment are you in? Do you hang out with people who support your negative behaviors and allow you to live in denial? Or do you surround yourself with those who hold you accountable? Surrounding ourselves with those who reinforce negative behavior and denial makes it hard to see it differently.
There’s a saying that we are a combination of the five people we spend time with. Who are your five? If you need to, spend time with people who think differently–they’ll help us look through a different lens and see things from a wider perspective.
Be truthful. You’re only helping yourself when you can admit that beliefs you once held are no longer working for you.
Finally, forgive yourself. You are human. Denial is something we all utilize, and as long as we don’t stay in it, it’s useful. Forgiveness for when you stay in denial longer than you should is also important. Don’t blame or criticize yourself; see it as an opportunity to grow and move forward.
It’s important to be patient with yourself as you move to facing your denial. Your feelings about whatever caused the denial in the first place are valid, but you are meant to live less weighed down and in a more fulfilled life.
Remember, whether you weigh it or not, it weighs, so work on moving through the situation for the joy you were meant to receive!
If you would like to listen to my podcast episode on this topic, click here: https://brendareisscoaching.com/we-weigh-what-we-weigh/