At the beginning of the story journey, your protagonist is probably in a rut. He may be in an unhappy marriage. She may feel she has unfulfilled potential. On the other hand, things could be going swimmingly. Your character doesn’t realize he’s in a rut or that she’s capable of more, because life is going that well.

You can show that your character is in a rut by bottling up their emotions. When someone denies what they’re feeling, it’s a sign that they are unwilling to face whatever situation is causing them distress.

Similarly, your hero might deny the feelings of a friend, spouse, or family member, for the same reason. A man who denies that his wife is unhappy is unwilling to deal with problems in their marriage. A parent who rejects a child’s feelings may lack empathy or merely the skills needed to help a child cope.

Think about your current project or a recent one. Did you use this technique to show that your main character needs to change? Where could you insert some emotional moments to demonstrate the disconnect between where your character is today and where they might arrive at the end of their journey?

As a benefit, this kind of emotional denial is also hurtful, to both parties. Hurting oneself or others is a powerful signal that change must occur and can set up a redemptive moment.