As an avid observer of human behavior, I’ve always been interested in what makes us tick as humans. It’s one of the key reasons I pursued coaching as a career.
But, one of the questions that has fascinated me the most is why so many of us continue to actively repeat negative behaviors, or accept it from others, that only feed our lives with pain and unhappiness?
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the same question. Why can’t we just recognize the behavior, make a conscious decision to change it and live happily ever after?
Oh….but, what’s the FUN in that?!! Easy-Peasy is not a natural part of the human vernacular.
I touched on the topic of unwanted behavior patterns in my last post and shared some suggestions on how to identify the source behind the behavior, and ways to re-frame your expectations of it, so you can start to shift to healthier behavior choices.
But, I want to go a little deeper this time. Because one of the key aspects of negative behavioral patterns that I didn’t mention before was the aspect that ‘denial’ plays in the process.
Denial is, unfortunately, one of the biggest coping mechanisms that keeps us stuck in unhealthy relationships and responsible for perpetuating many negative behaviors.
For instance, in cases where a person is being continually disrespected or emotionally battered by others, denial often comes from our unwillingness to objectively assess those actions if they are done by people we genuinely care about.
Many people are willing to ‘overlook’ a toxic situation because they want to believe the best about the person they care about. Who among us is perfect, right? We have to take the bad along with the good and that’s just part of life.
Well, yes, that’s certainly true, to a degree. But, what’s the percentage of bad vs. good behavior we’re willing to tolerate and what percentage should raise a red flag that we can no longer ignore? Are they 20% negative behavior and 80% great? Or are we really only seeing fleeting glimpses of good amongst the bad?
If it’s the latter, then it’s time to step back and re-evaluate what that person truly represents in our life and hold ourselves accountable for allowing it.
You see, denial becomes a problem when we take it to the level of shutting down our natural warning systems, looking the other way when we see either ourselves or others acting in a disrespectful or unhealthy way.
Somehow, we conveniently (and willingly) lose track of our value systems, life goals and priorities when we decide we just want something, or someone, bad enough in our lives, regardless of the consequences.
The second problem with denial is that it shuts down our ability to truly see the bigger picture of our potential and options for growth. It can come from fear of failure, resistance to getting out of our comfort zones, fear of rejection by someone we love (or think we do), fear of being alone or from any number of limiting beliefs we harbor from the past.
So, what’s one way to know if you, or someone else in your life, are suffering from denial that’s perpetuating a negative behavior pattern?
When they are confronted with a discussion as to why they continue to accept unhealthy or unhappy behavior in themselves or others, does the person always start their response with the phrase ‘Yes, but…..’?
On the outside, ‘Yes But-ers’ seem to really WANT to make a positive change in their life. They may have even complained for years about an unhealthy relationship with their spouse, their family or enduring a miserable work situation.
But, the second a potential (and viable) solution or choice option is offered, the person will instantly pivot 180 degrees from complaining about their plight to passionately arguing why they can’t change it. They will negate ANY solution or idea you suggest to them because they are adamant their situation is ‘unique’.
Why would a person do that if they really wanted to change?
Because, whether they are conscious of it or not, the reality is, they actively choose to stay in their negative experience. On some level, they’ve convinced themselves that it’s better to stay on the misery merry-go-round. Like I said in the last post, it’s the ‘Devil They Know’.
It could be for reasons we don’t like having to admit to: like needing attention, wanting to feel needed by others, financial security, fear of judgment by others, fear of making a mistake, the discomfort of getting out of their comfort zone or just plain lacking energy or initiative to make a change because they can’t visualize life differently or even believe a better life is possible.
If you or someone you know shows the trademark ‘Yes, But…’ denial response, don’t worry. It’s curable. But, it takes a solid willingness to look at oneself with honesty and call it for what it is: a coping skill (or limiting block) that’s keeping you/them stuck.
Mel Robbins, the well-known Life Coach and Author of ‘The 5 Second Rule’ has a great quote that applies here.
“You’re only one decision away from changing your life.”
‘Yes..Butting’ is a refusal to accept that power to make a decision that can move a person out of unhappy territory toward a healthy, happier existence.
So, to cure the denial, the best place to start is to recognize and own the behavior (without self-judgment). Then, instead of immediately rejecting potential options that can get a person back on the path to health and happiness, get creative and stay open to giving each idea or solution a true opportunity for consideration.
What may seem completely impossible CAN become entirely possible if a person values themselves enough to make the effort. It only takes one step, or decision, at a time! What’s the worst thing that can happen?
I say…Drop kick that Denial Beastie down the road! Leave the Yes, But’s behind (no pun intended) and start living a life we all truly deserve!
If you think you might benefit from life coaching sessions, or just need a little push to get through a life challenge, I encourage you to take advantage of one of my free 20-minute introductory phone coaching consults to see if I can help.
Full sessions are provided in-office or by phone, so you don’t have to live in the Oregon area to benefit from this service. To schedule, go to: