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In Denial? Try the 3rd Person Trick

It always hits at dusk. “Between the dark and the daylight, when the night is beginning to lower,” as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, that’s when the dark clutches of denial grabs us by the throat.

“It wasn’t as bad as all that. You’re exaggerating.”

“It wasn’t abuse!! It was just love…gone sadly wrong.”

“They meant well. They had no idea what they were doing.”

“But that was my {fill-in-the-blank} (mother, father, husband, wife, child). They love me. They would never knowingly abuse me.”

The chicanery of Denial knows no limits. During my own five year journey of healing from narcissistic abuse, Denial has been, hands down, the hardest aspect of recovery. It just keeps rearing its ugly head.

Denial can be a Blessing

Denial isn’t all bad. While we were in the abusive situation, it protected us from the mind-shattering reality of our situation. That’s why I give myself and you a break. We may have unhealthy coping mechanisms – such as denial, bargaining, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – but they kept us sane, kept us safe, kept us going. They were a blessing at that time.

But now? Now they stand in our way of healing. Like training wheels, at some point we must remove the crutch of denial…wobble…fall…skin our knees…then find our balance on the bicycle of life.

Denial can be a Curse

Last week, I was telling a friend that when my family went from semi-normal to bat-crap crazy in 1995, they refused to tell me what had happened. Yet, they were “okay” with going to therapy to share that unrevealed secret that was tearing my family apart with a stranger, a counselor they didn’t know from Adam. As a confused, terrified teenager, I found this unfair and infuriating!

My friend pointed out that, perhaps, it was better that I not know. Basically she said, you were protected. I take her point, as “not knowing” allowed me  to stay in naïve denial…but I also passionately disagree.

If I’d known the truth, I might’ve left the family years before I did. And my life would’ve been happier, healthier and better for it. What you don’t know can hurt you tremendously. Even if you don’t know what it is. Can’t see it clearly. Don’t have a name for it.

Denial can be Triumphed Over

False Guilt is definitely Denial’s best friend. They support each other. Ah, but we have a secret ally against the Dreadful Duo. It’s name is the 3rd Person Trick. It’s the best method I know for triumphing over and defeating denial.

I was reminded of the 3rd Person Trick on Monday when someone posted a comment on my article The Turpin Adult Hostages: Are They to Blame for NOT Speaking Up? 

You can click here to read the full comment, but basically it told the story of my past life (to some extent). Here’s an excerpt from that comment:

“My wifes sister and her husband next door has kept their daughter a hostage for 50 years. Her TV is monitored. Her friends are restricted. Her route to and from work is controlled and timed. Her clothes are bought for her. Her hairstyle and everything else is decided upon by her parents….Their daughter has a profesional job….She goes to work by herself but that is it and everything is controlled and monitored…My wife asked her sister did her 45 year old niece have an opinion. Her sister said it’s what the family wants….

Evil! My first reaction was, “The treatment of this poor woman is utterly evil.” It was extremely disturbing to read about the heinous treatment she bears daily at the very hands of those who are supposed to love her the most.

Then it struck me: the 3rd Person Perspective on someone else gave me clarity about my own past situation. If it is evil for that poor woman to be held “hostage,” then it was evil for me to be held “hostage” for so many years too.

Poooofff!! My denial deflated like a balloon pricked with a pin.

The Third Person Trick

That comment was a blessing, the kind of comes perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. It just dropped in my lap, but you can always apply the Third Person trick with a minimum of effort. Here’s how:

  1. Google Similar Situations: Years ago, I could not allow myself to feel, experience and entertain any negative emotion, unless I had Googled that emotion and determined that it was “okay” (validated) to have. That other people had it too. That’s an extreme case. But Google is your best friend in recovery. Google life situations and families similar to your own. Your outrage at how those people have been treated will allow you feel outraged that you are/were being treated in the same way.
  2. Would You Treat Your Child That Way?: Reverse the roles. Imagine you were your own mother or father. Would you ever, ever, EVER have treated yourself the way that they treated you? Would you have blamed and gaslighted Little You as they did? Would you have punished Little You? Would you have shamed Little You?Of course not!!! It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. It was the working of a warped mind. Perhaps a narcissist so guilty for [fill-in-the-blank] that they chose to project their own evil onto you, their Innocent Little Child.
  3. Tales from the Third Person: As you become adroit at using the Third Person trick, you can employ it without resorting to Google or  the I’m-My-Own-Parent trick. You can simply throw a particular thing that was said or done to you into the 3rd Person Scenario and voila! Like a vending machine, the answer comes tumbling out. EIther “Meh, it wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible” or “That was abuse, dude!”
    Maybe you just need a Normalcy Check. Should XY ever be done to anyone? The 3rd Person Trick will give you an immediate answer, deep in your gut.Maybe you need some empathy for yourself. To shed a tear for your own pain. The 3rd Person Trick can help with that.

Denial takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of words and torturous mental gymnastics to convince yourself that “It was perfectly fine for them to do and say XY to me.”

The 3rd Person Trick is simple. It doesn’t take a lot of words. No mental gymnastics. Yet, in a flash, it destroys Denial beyond recovery. I highly recommend you try it today, tomorrow and whenever Denial rears its ugly head.

In Denial? Try the 3rd Person Trick

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2018). In Denial? Try the 3rd Person Trick. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Aug 2018
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