Global warming, school shootings, Syrian genocide … they all have one thing in common: our innate ability to pretend things will be okay because we’re going to get around to them one day soon.
Though you may occasionally give in to thoughts that you can bend the universe to your will, it’s usually been my experience that things happen in a fairly predictable way. You can claim that you didn’t know things would go wrong when they do, or that a bad result was just bad luck, but often, unfortunate things happen because you have been simply trying to outrun inevitability using the childlike logic that if you turn your back, maybe it will go away.
Since denialism is a construct to justify inactivity, the consequences of denialism can go completely unchecked for years. You only stop to take care of things when a pin prick has turned into a gaping wound that can no longer be ignored.
The snag is that realism is limiting. You can’t enjoy a bottle of wine if you think of the potential liver damage it may do. You can’t treat yourself to a wide screen TV if you focus on the opportunity cost of not investing the money instead. You can’t get together with the love of your life if you focus on your very real flaws. The cool kids will tell you to just let go and live a little bit because there may not be a tomorrow.
But they’re wrong. There usually is a tomorrow, and in the average life, there are potentially thousands of them. Unless you choose to deny that too (in which case, chapeau), that single truth makes denialism even more limiting than realism. Sooner or later, you’re going to be handed a bill.
Here are four ways to avoid that bill being any bigger than it has to be.
If the experts keep saying it, you should listen
Cigarette packs have carried labels saying ‘this shit will flat out murder you’ for years. Personal finance gurus have regurgitated the same old facts about avoiding credit card debt since credit cards were invented. This stuff isn’t new. You really don’t need to hear it again to know what you should and shouldn’t be doing if you want to avoid a gaping wound.
If it’s on your doorstep, treat it like it’s real
Even if you think the experts are tiresome bores, the next time you have a niggling cough or have to resort to a second credit card to pay the first, you’ll at least have to acknowledge that they have a point. Your gaping wound is acquiring a ‘dead certain’ status if you continue to deny its existence when it has come home to you.
If your gut has an opinion, go with it
Your gut knows. When you feel like what you’re doing is stupid, it probably is. When you feel that you’re not being real about something, you’re probably not. One glass of wine won’t hurt you, but the odds are that when you’re getting into the car after bottle number three, your inner voice will tell you that you probably shouldn’t do that. Usually, it’s right.
If you ever need to convince yourself, abandon it
You can lie to anyone you like, but if you try to lie to yourself, you’ll never get away with it. Never in a million years. If you’ve ever had to spend time trying to convince yourself that what you’re doing is okay, then you already know you’re a truth-denying twit.