Our son embarked on a long journey and left in our driveway his Jeep Cherokee—somewhat aged from more than 150,000 miles of use. For the previous several months it had slowly been leaking radiator fluid, so we always carried anti-freeze and water to replenish the fluid level.
When the leakage became excessive—after many gallons of anti-freeze—we took the car to the dealership for repairs. After a couple of days, the service department called, and a man announced, “Good news, we did two pressure tests on the coolant system, and we found nothing wrong.”
I described to him the considerable evidence of continued leaking, and asked him to keep it for another day of examination. He called again the next day to repeat the good news that nothing was wrong.
Hmmm. For months we had dealt with dropping fluid levels, wet floor mats, and rising engine temperatures, but the dealership was happy to announce that there was “nothing wrong.” The coolant leak continued inconveniently until a new engine finally fixed the problem, but only after an additional seven visits to various dealerships and repair shops.
I find many similarities between the original dealer’s report and what I hear nearly every day from people who call and visit me. Most of us live in ways that simply do not work, plagued by pain, fear, anger, and other conditions that banish any possibility of happiness. When I talk to these people, however, almost uniformly they deny the seriousness of their condition, as well as denying any of their own behaviors that might contribute to their unhappiness.
Many of us cannot tolerate facing the truth of our lives, so we attempt to survive by profoundly denying what is true. Our denial enables us briefly to avoid facing the truth, but the “coolant” continues to leak onto the ground, eventually leading to a gruesome finale.
No matter how unpleasant the truth, we must deal with it. Only then can we change our perspective, our feelings, and our behaviors, thereby achieving the happiness we desire.