I believe that one of the biggest obstacle to our progress is something we’ve all likely been doing in someway or another for most of our life: A V O I D I N G.
Humans, like all species, are continually evolving and adapting to the environment around them. When it is cold, the body works to warm us up. When wounded, the body is able to heal. When scared, we are alerted to fight, freeze or flee. All organisms have to be able to maintain homeostasis (balance) within some range of conditions that are not completely stable. We do so by adapting in all kinds of ways, physically, mentally, emotionally and of course, socially.
Our brains are essentially social brains, we share information and we create and pass on knowledge. That's the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it's what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates. This adaptive ability not only allowed our progenitors to ride the massive seesaws of climate shifts but subsequently helped them to colonise new habitats and ways of living.
We cope with difficulties in various ways. Some are more positive than others. Whilst avoidance and denial is a relatively harmless method that can be useful in the short term, it can result in significant internal damage and may end up coming out in other ways. Avoidant coping is one of the main causes of out-of-control stress, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, relationship problems, and eating issues.
Avoidance is a simple way of coping by not having to cope. When feelings of discomfort appear, we find ways of not experiencing them. Procrastination is another form of avoidance where we put off to tomorrow those things that we can avoid today. Avoidance is essentially a maladaptive way of coping which causes anxiety to snowball because typically one ends up experiencing more of the very thing they were trying to escape. Sure, sometimes the things that people come to avoid are truly dangerous and deserving of being avoided however, other times, there is no actual danger present. In many cases, feelings of anxiety and panic cause people to think they are facing a real and profound danger, when in actuality, they are not and the yet the neurological response in our bodies is the same regardless.
In order to figure out how to stop this and shift toward healthier ways of dealing and managing life's challenges, we have to figure out why we are avoiding in the first place. The answer is, of course, our thoughts. But more specifically, when you are avoiding doing something, you are not avoiding the actual action but rather, what you are avoiding is a feeling you don’t want to have or a difficult emotion. It’s a feeling that your current brain predicts you will have if you do the 'thing', or take any steps towards doing the 'thing'.
Right now you’re reading this but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don’t want to think about.
We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications, to avoid doing something we don’t want to face.
When we’re facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that’s it’s okay because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don’t have to face the difficulties.
When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don’t want to face these difficulties.
We put off exercise because it’s uncomfortable.
The real conversation that really needs to occur doesn't happen because we fear rejection and hurt.
Check in with yourself. Take a good look at your life now. Is there anything that you are trying to avoid dealing with? Your work? Your responsibilities? Your relationships? Your health? Your dietary habits? Your exercise regime? Your financial status? Your goals? Your aspirations? Your personal issues? Your past?
Until you acknowledge and muster the courage to deal with what you are trying to escape from, your issues will not miraculously disappear. They will continue to be there, creating looping patterns in your life. You will keep finding yourself stuck in similar situations and contexts, thinking the same things, feeling the same emotions, and doing the same things — over, and over, and over again — until the day you finally decide to do something about them. Loops require conscious intervention in order to break out of them.
Consider the following + break your avoidance patterns/habits.
1. Recognise it doesn't work. It is simply not an adaptive behaviour that serves you and your well being long term. Choose to stop. I’m not saying that facing your issues is easy. It’s not. When you are trying to avoid something, it is usually a reflection of deeper inner issues which you have not resolved. These issues are delicate. These issues are very real. It takes true strength and courage to be able to face them head on but you can do it. Truly, you can.
2. Understand the cost of avoidance (physical, emotional, psychological etc). Check out this worksheet from the book ' The Happiness Trap' CLICK HERE
3. Learn to connect + tolerate uncomfortable feelings/thoughts - listen to the communication of your body, soften and reduce rigidity. Trust that your body is never lying to you and use it as your guide to help you identify when you are slipping into negative thoughts or actions.
4. Focus on what you WANT not what you DON'T WANT.
5. Build your capacity for Self-regulation. Move your body, get outside, breathe, meditate, write, talk - do whatever you need to do in order to increase positive energy flow in your life and return to homeostasis.
6. Always remember that although stressors arise in life, you are designed to feel good, to be happy and to belong. Reach out + get the love and support you need.
Strength doesn't always come from the things you can do but rather overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't.
Keep going, the world needs your magic!
I’M JESS, AN EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATOR, YOGA TEACHER, SPEAKER + LEADERSHIP FACILITATOR.
MY HEART IS GUIDED BY LOVING KINDNESS, MY ARMS REACH WIDE AND MY FEET LOVE TO WANDER.
I HELP YOU PROCESS THE FIRES OF LIFE SO YOU CAN LEAD FROM WHOLENESS + TRAVEL LIGHTLY.
BEING STUCK ISN'T WORKING FOR YOU ANYMORE AND NEITHER IS TRYING TO DO IT ALONE.
JOIN ME + LETS DO IT TOGETHER.