Diego Rivera: El Hombre in Cruce de Caminos (1934)
"What are we supposed to do with this?"

If denial remains the first stage of acceptance, ReNial attempts to infinitely extend irresolution. It's a cognitive state probably intended to keep the true believer safe, though it eventually backfires in practice to insist upon ever-increasing personal peril. When one falls into ReNial, no evidence qualifies as sufficient to counter any initial misconception. First impressions metastasize into permanent, ever more strongly defended, convictions. Those in ReNial seem to perceive admission of even a small mistake as an irreversible negation of self, a forfeiture of some essential part of their own identity. They persist in believing even obviously self-destructive falsehoods long after what most consider reasonable. They come to not simply resist acknowledging some obvious something, but eventually identify themselves as resistance itself. They thereby back into assuming a negative identity defined by what it denies. Negative identities tend to reliably produce the opposite of whatever they want.

Society long ago adopted forms of logic intended to help us prevent falling into ReNial.
While ReNial comes to seem like just some form of over-insistence, it might not be nearly as volitional as it seems. I believe that a rather simple error in logic creates the conditions within which ReNial might prove inexorable. Like an error in warfare tactics might render a vanquished enemy fey, a state where defeat becomes so unavoidable that it can only reasonably be denied. This condition can render an opponent berserk, where they commence to ever more insistently scorch their own earth rather than relent. The fey conflate success with failure until their own survival seems to depend upon their self-destruction at their own insistent hand. Viking raiders came to understand that they dare not induce feyness in any foe, lest they forfeit any hope of eventual reconciliation. Some sense of hope and possibility needed to be preserved regardless of battlefield imperatives. This understanding eventually resulted in The Vienna Conventions, which attempted to define and enforce more humane warfare.

Those suffering from ReNial firmly believe that the world's against them, and perhaps rightly so. The world might not have started out against them, but the ReNial's iterated insistences soon convinces the world that it should rightfully stand in firm opposition to them. The ReNail does not employ rational argument, and refuses to acknowledge or abide by the tenets of reason. ReNial-ers come to inhabit a non-rational universe, not necessarily an irrational one, but one effectively divorced from the potential benefits of rational discourse. No proof could possibly reverse any ReNial-er's insistence. Truth cannot matter if accepting it destroys sense of self. Those in ReNial often seem heartless, though they might possess the softest underbelly in town. We all fall down, but they bleed rather than merely bruise when they fall, so they defend each stance as if it represented their very last chance at survival. Compromise seems perverse to them, evidence of underlying weakness rather than potential strength. They cannot meet another halfway. It's quite literally always their way or the highway.

I might carry a deep compassion for those reveling in their own ReNial, though I won't hold my breath for them to reciprocate my feelings. I understand that anyone still learning represents a definite threat to the ReNial-er's identity. It might be that every mid-life crisis represents a crisis of identity. Beneath the divorce or untimely job loss lies a deeper disturbance. When the very ground one has always relied upon to support them disappears from beneath them, one reacts in ways very likely to make matters much worse at first. It's a process where denial might be a perfectly reasonable first response toward eventual acceptance, but the path seems unavoidably muddy. We've each survived these ordeals with more or less (usually less) tolerance for the inherent disorder. Our worlds might never actually recover, but we usually rediscover some semblance of balance, and then proceed. We come to understand where these experiences might probably lead us, not to an ability to avoid them but perhaps to a back-handed capability to better cope with them.

Those in ReNial might have grown
fey from repeated underminings. Rather than better cope, they rope off a raft of other possibilities to simply retrench. They build ever more insistent defenses. They draw a final line which they steadfastly refuse to cross. Those suffering from advanced stages of ReNail will not only defend to their own deaths, but insist that others die, just as if that constituted an essential part of a necessary defense. They might (and have), for instance, insist that guns don't kill people and that they, unlike many others, embody only the good guys with guns. They scream for freedom and liberty without seeming to think about the freedoms or liberties of others. They come to see themselves as the very embodiment of virtue since they alone seem unflinchingly insistent. Everyone else seems willing to compromise. They alone stand firm.

I remain uncertain what ReNial's trying to teach me. I ache to negate it. I imagine some method which might help them get over the debilitating lump they carry on their shoulder. I accept that reason's probably not the answer, though an error of logic's likely the cause. We once fought a Civil War which seems to have produced subsequent generations of Lost Cause ReNial-ers. Not even liberating concentration camps discouraged Holocaust ReNial. Self-preservation seems an unlikely argument, if responses to reasonable mask mandates serve as any indication. I read in the papers this morning that some patients suffocating in ICUs have refused to accept that they're suffering from COVID-19. With their final breaths, they croaked that it's all a hoax and that they just need some vitamins. What are we supposed to do with this?

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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