Avoidant Behavior - The Enemy of Relief

How avoidance is the enemy of the relief you are looking for.

11/4/20233 min read

woman in white and gray striped long sleeve shirt covering her face with her hand
woman in white and gray striped long sleeve shirt covering her face with her hand

Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and they will come forth later in uglier ways. - Sigmund Freud

We spend so much time and energy on avoidance. Women avoid being unsafe, men avoid feeling, and children try to avoid being in trouble. We are all avoiding something. While some things like danger should be avoided. Recently, I feel that I've watched many people avoid moving. Moving towards the things they truly wanted, what brought them happiness, like their dream job or a special person. Not pushing anything away but also not pulling anything closer.

The habit of avoiding doesn't serve the purpose most of us use it for. Suppose I was avoiding thinking about how unsafe I am as a woman. It doesn't make me safer. If we try to avoid feeling sad, it doesn't take away that feeling. If I avoid looking at my bank account because I've spent more money than I had. It doesn't give me more money. So, why do we avoid it if it doesn't fix or change what we are avoiding?

Avoidant behavior is the enemy of relief.

Here is the new perspective on avoidance that I want to give. Avoidant behavior is the enemy of relief. Going back to our examples above, If I wanted to stop feeling sad, I would have to deal directly with the sadness. What made me sad? Think about what you can control and what you need to feel better. If I spent more money than I had. What can I do to rebalance my account? Can I pick up an extra shift? Should I take some things back? Lastly, if I wanted to feel safer in an unsafe world. I could take some self-defense classes. Get special locks or have cameras installed. You can push things away, bury emotions, and ignore bad habits, but they won't disappear. As Ayn Rand put it, "we can ignore reality, but we can not ignore the consequences of ignoring reality." Look at the things you are avoiding and understand that if you want to change, you will have to face them. This is where you find and experience relief.

Another thing to note

Avoidance usually creates the situation you tried to avoid. For example, if I avoid taking an exam because I am scared to fail, and I get a zero for missing it. I have still failed my exam. Maybe It feels different because it wasn't a product of my hard work. But I got the same results. Another example is the parents who try to avoid their children falling in with the wrong crowd or making poor choices. Those parents tend to avoid it by keeping their children in the environments they approve of. Typically when their children inevitably find themselves in a different environment, they do not know how to handle themselves. They don't know what types of things and people to avoid, which leads to them making those decisions their parents tried to avoid.

What to do when you find yourself avoiding?

1.) Figure out what your goal in avoiding is.

• Let's say I avoid communicating because I'm scared to say the wrong thing and lose people.

2.) Make a plan

• I plan to write out what I want to say, so I don't say things out of emotion.

3.) Be Honest ( This won't apply to every situation)

• I told the people that I was scared to lose that I was scared to say the wrong thing, and that my intention was never to hurt them. So if I say something that hurts you, please let me know.

4.) Do it

• I did the thing I was avoiding. I communicated with them.

When I saw the effects of avoidance on the people around me, I started repeating, "The only way to let something go or find relief from it truly is to face it." Then I would follow the steps above. We all wish for relief in many ways. Give it to yourself by releasing avoidant behavior, the enemy of relief.

Ps: We can't talk about avoidance without talking about disappointment. Stay tuned for next week's post on disappointment.