5 Problems You Can't Solve By Pretending They Don't Exist (Even Though You Probably Want To)

Why do liberals and conservatives disagree so fundamentally? Plenty of theories have been offered: political beliefs are genetic, one side or the other is smarter, or one side is better-informed. But a recent study on the origins of political disagreement shows that, actually, people deny the existence of real problems to preserve their political beliefs in the face of undesirable solutions to those problems. In other words, people are more likely to pretend like certain problems aren't real if they don't like how to fix them. Is this phenomenon clouding your judgment on non-political matters, too?

Researchers at Duke University studied several scenarios using experimental participants, including climate change and crime control. Conservatives tend to embrace the free market, so when a question about climate change proposed regulations as a fix, conservative participants denied climate change was happening at all. Similarly, liberals tend to support gun control, so when a question about crime suggested curbing it by loosening gun policy, many denied that violent crime was a problem at all. When the solution presented seemed less than ideal, people tended to just dismiss that the problem existed altogether.

There's no real reason to think this phenomenon of "motivated disbelief" is limited to the political domain, though. How many times do we find ourselves in situations where it just seems easier to pretend like nothing's wrong rather than to acknowledge that, yeah, we might have a problem on our hands here? Whether it's about our less-than-stellar relationships or the dismal state of our bank accounts, there's a reason denial is so popular. And while sometimes it's OK to tell the occasional white lie to make ourselves feel better, here are five problems you can't solve by denying they exist.

1. Your Relationship Sucks

No one likes a breakup, but once you acknowledge that your relationship sucks, you have to start grappling with the prospect of a split. And while it may seem easier to just deny that things are going poorly than to call it quits, you'll both be happier in the long run if you just admit that your relationship simply isn't working anymore. Who knows? Having this conversation might help you both get to the bottom of what's bothering you and come up with some sort of compromise to make things work. Or it might just help you come to terms with the fact that whatever you had is over. Either way, confronting the problem will save you a lot of time and misery.

2. Your Career Is Going Nowhere

Changing jobs certainly isn't easy, especially in today's economy. So how does your subconscious protect you from that daunting task, even if your career is going nowhere? Your mind starts coming up with reasons why your job is better than you think (like that it's close to home or that "challenging yourself" is important) rather than admitting that it's time for a change. Like a bad relationship, it's important to be honest with yourself and figure out what parts of your job are making you miserable, and if they're worth fixing. Finding a new job may seem tough, but staying at a place you hate is even worse.

3. You Haven't Been Focusing On Your Health

OK, so you haven't been making the healthiest lifestyle choices lately, but going to the gym just seems like the dumbest idea ever when you could just stay inside, order Seamless, and watch Netflix all night. And there's nothing wrong with doing that every now and then, but it's easy to tell yourself you'll just work out tomorrow night when you know that's probably not the case. It's time to take a proactive approach, and find new ways to motivate yourself to be active.

4. You Need New Friends

You've realized your current group of friends is mildly toxic, but finding new friends as an adult is difficult and awkward. Where are you supposed to meet them? How can you get friendly without looking clingy? Finding new friends is the obvious solution when you realize your current friends aren't doing much for you anymore, but ugh, if Mean Girls taught you anything it's that meeting new people can be the worst. Still, this is about you being happy, and making new friends is easier than you think. No need to hang around people who make you feel bad about yourself if you don't have to.

5. Your Budget Is Out Of Control

Reining in an out-of-control budget is no fun at all: it means dinners skipped, outings missed, and shopping forgone. But don't let "motivated disbelief" keep you from the secure financial future you deserve. The problem with denying problems like this is that if you ignore them, they only tend to get worse.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy (5)