Have you ever had one of those moments when you had a core belief challenged? A moment when a key assumption was proven false? An existential crossroad, lain before you by circumstance? I so, you probably know that your options at that moment are really limited to two: denial or acceptance.
Denial is, of course, a perfectly understandable reaction. ‘How could this apply to me?’ is a completely normal reaction, and provides the easier to digest option: of course, it doesn’t apply to you. You can go on living your life unexamined, directing your unease into anger at that which raised the question. You can resume your trajectory with but a momentary interruption, as if nothing had happened.
Acceptance is harder. Acceptance can mean adding nuance to previously-held beliefs or it can mean discarding them altogether, but either outcome means admitting that you were wrong in some fundamental way. And not just any old kind of wrong, but Really Wrong. Sometimes, it means admitting that you were not only Really Wrong, but that you had been willfully blind to earlier challenges. Denial is more than a river in Egypt, after all; it is in many ways the easier road to take.
The funny thing about these moments is how they can be brought on by the smallest thing – an overheard snippet of conversation, an offhand remark. And so it was that this afternoon, I found myself in just such a situation: a well-intentioned remark that resulted in feelings of relief, then anger, then disgust at my relief… Clearly, I had some new information to integrate, some schemas to repair.
“Well, you don’t need bifocals yet,” said the optometrist, “but I’m putting the correction information down on your chart anyway.”