(CCSLQ-39) – Denial Shock Absorber

The following is part of a series exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. As I near the publication of an untitled book on the subject, it is difficult to say how often I will post additional material (even though over 20 more quotes have been identified). That book is scheduled for release in May, 2018.

There is an “at a glance” page (CLICK HERE) to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series, which also includes a list of the other quotes I’ve identified as questionable. Also, if you haven’t already, consider reading the INTRODUCTION to this series to gain an understanding of the three main categories.   

“Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It protects us until
we are equipped to cope with reality.”

Back in April of this year (2017), I wrote about a questionable quotation that seemed to be just appearing in social media. In fact, as far as I can tell it has only been shared on Twitter and it is not (yet) a common falsely quoted saying. The above expression, while actually wrongly credited to Lewis for many years (as I’ll explain shortly), appears to also only be showing up on social media very recently. In fact, only ONE person on Pinterest seems to have shared it (so far). Thanks to Steve Elmore, from the C.S. Lewis Foundation, who recently alerted me to this saying and for also tracking down some of the information related to it that I’ll be sharing.

The earliest this quotation is falsely credited to Lewis is actually 2013. In early January of that year, it was posted in a forum on the SoberRecovery.com website by someone with the username of Hopeworks. According to an email message I received from Steve, another individual, who asked him to look into the quote, found that somewhere Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain (POP) is mentioned as the source of the quote. I was not able to locate any place that gave it as a reference. Either way, when I check my electronic copy of POP I found the word “denial” is only used once, in the tenth chapter and it has nothing to do with the meaning of the above expression.

I was, however, able to confirm what Steve himself tracked down related to the quote, that it probably came from Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. This book was first released in 1986 and while only the first sentence is exactly the same, there are no quotation marks around it to suggest she was sharing another person’s thoughts. In her book she wrote this:

Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our other coping resources.

Thus, it appears someone was attempting to remember this passage and got the first sentence correct, but then summarized the rest, while forgetting the correct source.

I mentioned that the earliest citing of Lewis that I could find was 2013; I did locate a post from two years before from another forum where the person didn’t give a source for the quote, but acknowledged they didn’t come up with the original thought. Also, I was able to track down in the same forum that I found the 2013 mention of falsely crediting Lewis in, actually had a post from 2009 where someone shared a variation that Melody Beattie composed for her 1990 book entitled, The Language of Letting Go. There she wrote:

Denial is a protective device, a shock absorber for the soul. It prevents us from acknowledging reality until we feel prepared to cope with that particular reality. People can shout and scream the truth at us, but we will not see or hear it until we are ready.

Thus, in addition to not finding the alleged quote in the writings of C.S. Lewis, the fact that two very close variations appear in the works of Melody Beattie, it is easy to conclude that Lewis did not compose the saying in the above picture. Considering it seems to only just now to be making the rounds in social media, then why not share this post with others to help it from spreading like wildfire.

There is nothing really close that I could come up with that Lewis wrote that is directly related to this quote when focusing on the words “denial” and “reality.” However,  he did write much about depending on God and using prayer as a means to help a person go through difficult times. Some can be found in his letters, which are available in three volumes, but there is also a wonderful “best-of” collection entitled Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis that was edited by Paul Ford. I’ll not share any of the material from there that would relate, but welcome others to do so in the comments if they like. But, I will share this brief passage that fall under this theme of depending on God:

“Our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”
from The Four Loves (Chapter 1)


The next article is:

“The next moment is as much beyond our grasp, and as much in God’s care as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for a day in the next thousand years. And neither can we do anything, and both God is doing everything.”

Related Articles:

Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions (6-part podcast series)

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 10/28/2017


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