I've been attempting to summarise the emotion of knowing the truth about something and disliking it yet pretending it's not the case and not wanting to ask/clarify it, even though it's in the back of your mind and you're fully aware you're pretending.

I can't seem to phrase it in a simpler manner however this is the best I can describe it with such few words, so I was wondering if there was a less complicated term/word for it that I haven't been able to find.

Apologies for the long question


2 Answers 2


Cognitive dissonance

psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously

This Wikipedia article will tell you all you want to know.

It covers the discomfort of holding the conflicting positions but not necessarily the reluctance to resolve them.

In denial

refusing to admit the truth or reality of something unpleasant

Better covers the unwillingness to confirm the unpalatable truth.

  • I believe the truth is acknowledged in the OP's scenario, so your second option is not appropriate. Your first, however, is very apt.
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 15:42
  • 1
    @Joachim someone who is "in denial" is aware of the truth, but suppresses it. Otherwise they would not be in that state. You cannot be in denial of something that you are not aware of. That's the point of this stock expression, which is different from just "denying". Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 19:07

The colloquial phrase that comes to mind is 'to have a sinking feeling' about something. Example:

She set out to work hoping to beat the storm, but she had a sinking feeling because of the hard rain and rising water levels in the street. She eventually gave up and turned back.

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