Wishful thinking as/and denial

It came up as a question in my workshop at Bellevue College on March 7.

I had apparently been discoursing on “wishful thinking” and the rejection of reality.

“What is the difference between ‘wishful thinking’ and ‘denial?’

My answer was, “None.”

I realized later that this may not be tecnically true. As a long-ago client said, “Denial is when you say what is, isn’t.” He might have added that “what ‘is’ is some sort of reality or fact.

What I would now say about wishful thinking is, ” ‘Wishful thinking’ is when you say what isn’t, is.” In other words, they are flip sides of the same coin. The person in denial says “One won’t hurt.” S/he is denying an objective reality, having an addiction that will lead to loss of control and a world of ‘hurt.’ Inseparable from this in-your-face denial is a tacit affirmation that what isn’t, is. Namely, that the person is ‘normal,’ a ‘social drinker/user.’

Now that I think of it, the “wish” is so inseparable from the denial which defends it, I am not going to go back and rewrite my book to clarify which one I am talkiing about at any given moment. In workshops, on the other hand, I may be more precise.

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