There are two incredibly painful, unhealthy coping mechanisms that our society seems to encourage: denial and suppression. Even when we’ve been caught red-handed, we’ve been shown and raised to pretend that it didn’t happen. We love to blame it on someone else or make excuses for why we had to act a certain way.

Psychologists have long explored why we do this, and they have discovered that these unhealthy coping mechanisms are a way for us to protect ourselves from feeling emotionally unstable. It doesn’t feel good to know that we’ve acted out of character. It’s challenging to accept that we’ve hurt someone or think that we’d be capable of making bad decisions: but it happens.

A Lot of Factors At Play

Previous studies have also explored this phenomenon and have found that we may not be entirely to blame for these coping mechanisms after all. Our obsession with denial and recrimination could be a combination of any of the following factors:

  1. Genetics (if a person’s family members are prone to specific reactions, such as anger, suppression, denial, etc., we may be more inclined to these reactions).
  2. The way a person was raised and what they grew up can give a lot of power to how they act today. As children, we are sponges soaking in our parent’s behavioral patterns.
  3. Patterns developed from being friends with people who promote specific coping mechanisms – because “we are who we hang out with.”
  4. Major life events that have shaped the way a person deals with stressful events (such as trauma, an accident, the loss of a loved one, etc.).


Sometimes, taking a look back to our past can tell us a lot about why we’ve developed a particular pattern of reaction to events throughout our lifetime. Through some simple reflection, we may find that we can discover the root of most of our behaviors. Perhaps we saw a parent or close family friend react that way growing up. Alternatively, we may have developed a particular way of thinking because of mental illness. No matter the case, looking back and recognizing patterns is crucial to understanding how we’ve practiced denial and suppression throughout our lives. After we’ve accepted this truth, we can change those negative habits for the better.

Understanding Denial and Suppression

Denial and suppression are avoidance tactics that prevent a person from working through the pain they’re feeling. If those painful issues are never addressed, the underlying emotions will seep out in other ways, including substance abuse, aggression towards others, self-harm, depression, etc. Denial occurs when we refuse to come to grips with the reality of a particular situation. Triggers for denial include hurting someone we love, abusing substances, lying, cheating, and stealing. It’s challenging for us to accept that we may act out in ways that traditionally go against our beliefs, attitudes, and values. In some cases, we’ll do anything to avoid confronting this reality.

Suppression occurs when we push down our thoughts and feelings. Some people would describe it as having a “knot in their stomach” filled with stress, anxiety, tension, fear, regret, sadness, and more. Our society has really valued this type of coping mechanism. We’re taught that if we push our feelings down far enough, they will go away, but that’s rarely the case. In fact, the longer a person suppresses what’s happening in their life, the harder it will be to work through those emotions. A person is essentially creating a wall within themselves to block off what they’re going through.

Only through extensive therapy and treatment can a person learn to break through those walls. It’s very rare for a person to suddenly, spontaneously see through the pain and damage that denial and suppression can cause.

If you’ve been drinking or using drugs to avoid facing the pain you’ve been feeling, it’s time to seek help. It’s time to come to terms with what your life has consisted of lately, and it’s time to make healthier decisions for yourself and those you love. Denial and suppression can only take care of the “problem” for so long. If they never get addressed, a person can never truly heal and move forward in their lives. You deserve a life beyond your wildest dreams, and it’s finally within your reach.

At Rancho Milagro Recovery, we believe in helping everyone find a long-term solution to addiction. Our treatment incorporates both medical and psychological therapy to help each individual find success. With a focused team of experts, Rancho Milagro is prepared to help treat drug and alcohol addiction and provide a new path to life.Denial and suppression can only cover up our pain. We can never truly overcome our addictions without digging beneath the surface. While this is a scary proposition, the personalized approach offered by Rancho Milagro Recovery makes it doable. At Rancho Milagro, you’ll find friendly, 24/7 staff service all designed to make early recovery more comfortable. Most of us have been running from our mistakes and our demons for nearly our entire life. Turning on a dime suddenly and facing the things which have supported our substance abuse is not an easy thing for anyone. With the appropriate support and services available to you, however, you’ll find a way to live sober which is truly manageable. Give us a call at (951) 526-4582 to get started on developing new coping mechanisms today!

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