A Literature Review of the Theories of Self-Denial Based on Secondary Sources

Theories of Self Denial: A Literature Review

This review is coded on the theory underlying self-denial in the context of alcohol addiction, state crime denial, and marital violence as contextual cases of study. The paper intends to draw arguments from existing secondary sources of research. The study takes cognizance of the proposition that denial of behaviour, personal responsibility or a major addiction is currently suppressing many people who are in the threshold of relationships or a major addiction. Those who are actively the victims of self-denial tending to rationalise, minimise, or neutralise their stands concerning what they are undergoing. Cohen, (2013), in his book, resonates the familiar doctrine that it is the nature of people and governments to commit terrible things, but again after the deeds deny the aftermath responsibilities and accountabilities accompanying such actions. Such denials, according to Cohen, (2013), pave the way for the cultivation of significant addictions, and other atrocities where the perpetrators acquire a motivation to allow them keep up doing such acts.

An in-depth mastery of the theories underlying self-denial in addiction is vital in the application of treatment regimen for such dependencies. The importance of denial according to Cohen (2013), is that it typically incorporated in the stepwise programs for treatments especially when having the victims admit to their immediate drinking problems; owing the view, that the victims of alcoholism according to research have also developed tendencies to rationalise their drinking habits when for instance invoked by their loved ones about their practices.


Rationalising their habits tend to legitimise their practices, making them viable to everyone around them. Cohen in his book; States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering extends self-denial to political and government agencies, which deny realities not through rationalized interventions but through political expediency, pragmatic doubts and high-sounding principles. Cohen presents the case of the Rwanda which he so much likens with the Holocaust, as a tragedy which as not deemed less important and denied principled arguments.

The proposals as mentioned above are constructed on three main theories which therefore exemplify them informatively (Papps and O’Carroll, 1998 p. 425). First, the feminist theory which is grounded on the roots of patriarchal societies proposes that; a male chauvinistic society renders proportionately elevated powers to control women. These high powers form loopholes for men to abuse women, based on the cultural norms which do not critically or severely condemn women oppression and abuse. Additionally, Cohen borrows insights from the theory to articulate how the government and those in political power use their statue to deny crimes committed.

Blaming, denial and minimisation are better comprehended by feminist theories, as modes of empowering men to escape consequences for their evil deeds against women. Men are thus expected to minimise, deny and or deflect blame for their morally eroded acts against female gender; especially when a jury sanctions them. Indeed, feminist theorists share the perspective that women who are abused by their male partners ought to blame themselves for their unjustified codes of conduct! (Gelles, and Maynard, 1987 p.273)

The psychoanalytic theory in contrast with the feminist present minimisation, denial and blaming as discrete forms of unconscious self-destructive defences. According to the model, the elements of denial are applied by addicts when their inner self is characterized by unlovable, shameful and powerless and despondence (Cohen, 2013); (Clulow, 2001). The persons in denial tend to defend themselves when overwhelmed by these feelings, by seeking particular excuses justifying their present circumstances. Some psychodynamic theorists maintain the view that man is more susceptible to these defensive mechanisms relative to women, based on the premise that socialised men in the realm of traditions tend to interpret feelings of hopelessness as a failure in masculinity which thus require defence (Scott, and Wolfe, 2003 p. 879).

Eventually, systems theories explicitly address the concepts of denial, minimisation and blame. The approach perceives violence as a fabric in human relationships, with a repetitive sort of enduring behavioural patterns exhibited by partners to sustain the isocratic equilibrium of relations (Neidig, Friedman, and Collins, 1985). In the spectrums of systems theory, people in denial are eloquent with dissatisfactions in relationships and which breed abuses. The theory explains the authenticity of “blaming”. Cohen however codes denial with some grains of positive significance, saying that it protects us “from dysfunctional anxiety by keeping us from thinking about or expressing what threatens us”. Notably he also takes cognizance of the proposition that denial is proof for failure, distortion or cognitive arrest which thus ought to be rectified.

The above study is limited in the future perspective, especially concerning the nature of the study sample. Perhaps, the most outstanding environment of study should be in colleges and universities where relationship aggression and alcoholism tread significantly (Wolfe et al., 2017). The research also ought to be propagated in martially distressed marriages, and alcoholics in clinical contexts. These are the domains which can effectively provide an updated and sound logical conclusion about the concept of self-denial in the area of addiction and violence.

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  • Clulow, C. ed., 2012. Adult attachment and couple psychotherapy: The ‘securebase’ in practice and research. Routledge.
  • Cohen, S., 2013. States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Downes, D., Rock, P., Chinkin, C. and Gearty, C. eds., 2013. Crime, Social Control and Human Rights: From Moral Panics to States of Denial, Essays in Honour of Stanley Cohen. Routledge.
  • Gelles, R.J. and Maynard, P.E., 1987. A structural family systems approach to intervention in cases of family violence. Family Relations, pp.270-275.
  • Neidig, P.H., Friedman, D.H. and Collins, B.S., 1985. Domestic conflict containment: A spouse abuse treatment program. Social Casework, 66(4), pp.195-204.
  • Papps, B.P. and O'Carroll, R.E., 1998. Extremes of self‐esteem and narcissism and the experience and expression of anger and aggression. Aggressive Behaviour: Official Journal of the International Society for Research on Aggression, 24(6), pp.421-438.
  • Scott, K. and Straus, M., 2007. Denial, minimization, partner blaming, and intimate aggression in dating partners. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(7), pp.851-871.
  • Scott, K.L. and Wolfe, D.A., 2003. Readiness to change as a predictor of outcome in batterer treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(5), p.879.
  • Wolfe, D.A., Scott, K., Reitzel-Jaffe, D., Wekerle, C., Grasley, C. and Straatman, A.L., 2017. Development and validation of the conflict in adolescent dating relationships inventory. Psychological assessment, 13(2), p.277.

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