“Denial” has traditionally been conceptualized as an ego defense mechanism. In other words, it’s been presumed that when a person denies the reality of a situation, they do so unconsciously because the reality is simply too painful to bear. But when disturbed characters engage in denial, they’re generally not in a state of psychological unawareness prompted by a deep inner pain about who they are or what they have been doing. Rather, disordered characters more frequently use denial (i.e., an unwillingness to admit their wrongdoing) as a tactic to feign innocence, and to manage the impression of others who might otherwise have their number. If the denial is strong enough, a good neurotic might be successfully manipulated into second-guessing himself. Disordered characters often won’t admit when they’ve done something wrong, and resist looking at any role their behavior patterns have played in creating problems in their lives. They lie to themselves and others about their malevolent acts and intentions as a tactic to get others off their back. If their denial is forceful and convincing enough, others will likely be successfully manipulated.
Denial is not only an effective manipulation tactic, but it’s also a sure sign someone is not about to change his or her way of behaving. A person who won’t acknowledge their wrongs in the first place isn’t likely to feel any inclination to correct them. Habitual denial is the way many disordered characters resist internalizing the values and standards of conduct that could make them more socially responsible.
I’ve posted before on what denial is and what it isn’t. I’ve made an effort to distinguish between a true defense mechanism and a tactic of manipulation and responsibility-avoidance.
I’ve been posting on another blog about the various characteristics of individuals with disturbed characters. A more in-depth exploration of manipulation tactics, why they work, and how to best respond to them so as not to be victimized can be found in my book In Sheep’s Clothing.