Avoidance


AvoidanceHeader

Do you like horror movies? Some people do, others don’t. Some people love romantic comedies, others hate them. Movies, hobbies, foods, styles. It doesn’t matter what it is; we all have our own interests and preferences – things we like and things we don’t.

A natural result of this is putting our energies towards those things we enjoy (and not towards things we don’t).

Sure, there are benefits in expanding our horizons and trying new things. But if we don’t like something or we decide it makes us uncomfortable, it’s alright to avoid these things.

When things are just personal tastes and preferences, it really doesn’t matter if you like them. You can choose to ignore them without doing any harm to yourself or those around you.

But not all of life is like that.

Sometimes there are things we need to deal with, whether we like it or not. No matter how awkward or uncomfortable it makes us feel.

 

Responsibilities

It’s easy to say “I don’t like horror movies so I won’t watch them”. It’s a bit tougher to say “I don’t like paying bills so I won’t pay them”. I mean, you can, but over time there may be some impacts of making that choice.

Bills are just one obvious example of things we can’t ignore.

The fact is, there are a lot of things we have to do. If we live on our own, we need to pay rent or a mortgage. Which means we need some sort of income – which usually comes in the form of a job. Which means we need to show up at work and put in enough consistent effort to hold a job.

We need an income to live. And we need to both manage our income and live within it.  At the very least, jobs and bills are something we need to deal with.

We may not like the restrictions this places on us, and we may feel uncomfortable when we look at our bills and our account balance.

But it’s not something we can ignore.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I CAN ignore things that make me uncomfortable. That won’t make them go away though, and has consequences of it’s own.

In fact ignoring problems tends to backfire over time, as small problems often grow into something much larger when they are not addressed.

avoidance3

Avoidance in Relationships

If life were just about me, it would be easy to do what I want and avoid the things that make me uncomfortable. Yes, this is unhealthy and there are usually negative consequences for doing this. But if I choose to do this, hey, it’s on me.

However most people don’t want to be alone. There is a natural tendency to seek relationships with others, both as friendships and intimate relationships. With friendships you can still get away with avoidance to a degree, as your friends only see you sometimes. In intimate relationships however this will ultimately cause problems.

Intimate relationships can be wonderful and rewarding. But they can also be challenging.

Life doesn’t always go down a happy path, sometimes things don’t go the way we want. Because people are different all relationships occasionally run into conflict, and some of the most common conflict areas are the following:

  • Money/Finances
  • Children (can be whether to have, or child rearing once you have them
  • Chores/Domestic Work
  • Sexual Expectations
  • Family (dealing with extended)
  • Elderly Parents (care of)
  • Life Priorities

None of these are fun, or easy topics to deal with.  And yes, at times it would be easier to just ignore them.  But for a relationship to thrive (or even just survive) the couple needs to find a way to navigate these in some way.

Navigating them involves accepting the each member of the relationship may have different ideas, accepting each persons opinion as valid, and working through the problem to find a common ground.

When something affects the couple and has impacts on them, the issue NEEDS to be addressed and dealt with.

It doesn’t matter if we like dealing with the problem or not, if we feel it’s an issue for us personally or not, or if it makes us uncomfortable.  If it’s a problem in the relationship, it’s a problem.

This isn’t like choosing not to watch scary movies. These things matter.

In life, we can’t just pick and choose the parts we want to deal with and ignore/avoid the rest.

Avoiding problems puts stress on the individuals, on the relationship, and over time it will threaten to destroy the relationship if a different path is not found.

avoidance1

 

When Avoidance Becomes a Problem

No one likes to deal with difficult or uncomfortable issues, and unless you love conflict (which some do) everyone will try to avoid things sometimes.

However when avoidance becomes a pattern of behavior, or a default ways of “dealing” with issues and conflict then it has become a problem.

According to Merriam-Webster avoidance is an act or practice of avoiding or withdrawing from something.

As noted, we all do this sometimes. But why does it become a (very broken) method of coping for some people?

One explanation for this can be found in the Fear Avoidance Model.

This is a psychological model that believes avoidance is driven by pain, and fear of pain. Conflict and dealing with conflict comes to be associated with discomfort, which can be physical or psychological.

Due to this fear, over time people start to avoid situations associated with this pain in the belief that doing so will “protect” them from it. However this same act of avoidance over the long term does more damage than good – as people will increasingly restrict their life to only include things that are “safe”, resulting in disability and depression.

Fear-avoidance_model

Avoidance is strongly linked to anxiety, as anxiety is based on fear. So an anxious person will often avoid situations that make them uncomfortable, even to their own detriment.

In extreme cases, anxiety can cause people to avoid life; and they end up trapped in a cage of their own making.

These extreme cases are often referred to as Avoidant Personality Disorder. Wikipedia describes this as being characterized by the following traits:

  • Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
  • Self-imposed social isolation
  • Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
  • Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Severe low self-esteem or Self-loathing
  • Mistrust of others
  • Emotional distancing related to intimacy
  • Highly self-conscious
  • Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
  • Feeling inferior to others
  • Uses fantasy as a form of escapism to interrupt painful thoughts

Communication and Avoidance

It is often said that communication is the most important thing in a relationships, and there are a number of quotes like this:
communication1

Communication builds closeness and mutual understanding. You build intimacy through letting the other person in and being vulnerable around them. This doesn’t happen without communication. In fact, in its purest for physical intimacy (sex) is really just a form of communication.

But we are all different, with different ideas and beliefs. And these differences provide the potential for conflict – especially in areas that make us uncomfortable.

I’ve written in the past on conflict, and how dealing with it is one of the most important relationship skills you can have. Conflict allows us to improve our mutual understanding of each other, and understanding is important to the long term success of any relationship.

Well what happens when you don’t communicate well, or perhaps not at all?

Avoidance is really the complete opposite of communication. Indeed, it is a refusal to communicate.

If communication is the lifeblood of a relationship, then avoidance is one of the biggest roadblocks to a happy relationship.

Avoidance often goes hand in hand with silence, or the silent treatment. What is often overlooked is that silent treatment is a form of punishment and control. In fact avoidance/withdrawal and the silent treatment are leading form of emotional abuse.

Avoidance2

A Better Way

I believe avoidance is one of THE biggest killers of relationships. But instead of ending relationships, it often leads to couples being “unhappily married” or in “bad relationships”. Because problems happen, and not only are they never addressed, but they are also never discussed and never out in the open.

Tension and body language makes it obvious problems exist, but they are avoided, leading to unhappiness and resentment.

We all have things that make us uncomfortable, and dealing with problems is never easy. But if you are someone who falls back on avoidance as way of “dealing” with issues, then your happiness and potentially your relationship depends on your ability to learn a different way.

As shown in the fear-avoidance model, avoidance is a destructive coping mechanism. By using avoidance to cope, people end up shutting down and withdrawing. As the model shows, the avoidance is due to fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of consequences.

Guess what? Life happens. And yes, things DO have consequences. This doesn’t mean you can’t deal with them and get past them though.

Avoidance goes hand in hand with anxiety, and one of the main components of anxiety is this fear of what “could” happen. Effective anxiety treatment is all about showing that yes, things can happen, and yes actions have consequences. But the consequences are almost always much less than the anxious person believes. Anxiety is about irrational fear (though it seems very rational at the time).

Like anything else in life, the only way to improve something is to do it. Avoiding is the opposite – it involves not doing. So it also involves never improving.

Take a chance, and try to overcome your fears. Try to actually tackle issues head on instead of avoiding them. Start small, and hopefully you will find the fear is greater than the reality.

Over time you can take your life back, and instead of avoiding you can start living.

avoidance5

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “Avoidance

    • I do think avoidance is one of the biggest killers of relationships (if not THE biggest). And it’s a topic people don’t often talk about because of the very fear-avoidance connection that causes avoidance in the first place 🙂

      You comment that avoidance can be good – I’m wondering if you can elaborate on that?

      I don’t really see any positives with it. I think maybe we all have thresholds of what we can handle before things become problems. And it’s good to not fly off the handle at the littlest thing. But once something IS a problem, to me it seems it really needs to be out in the open.

      A lot of relationships are damaged by one person holding things in, or believing the other person should “just know” what the problem is.

      Not the case. Communication is hard, for sure. But it’s probably the most important skill we can ever work on.

      thanks for commenting

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah! You are quite right, dear. And yes, I said it cause, I think it can be good too… Like, if you get angry or things get little messy with your loved one just avoid (leave) him/her for some time to get the situation get little better. Like that you get some time to think about.
        Every situation or actions have good and bad phase, we just have to look.
        I would agree with you here too. Yes! A lot of relationships damaged by this lack of communication and both the partners must incorporate.
        I loved your work and it’s my pleasure to be around!! 🙂
        Take care, be safe and stay blessed!

        Liked by 2 people

      • I think what is meant in this context of “avoidance being good” is that when things turn ugly and/or angry, it is best to step back and calm down before continuing the discussion. Not ignoring the problem, rather, taking time to cool your head and seriously engage the situation at a later time. Not too much later or it will appear as you don’t value the other person’s opinion and that you are unwilling to listen to their thoughts.
        I consider this to be an attempt to reduce knee-jerk reactions which almost never end well.
        I’m not trying to put words into the author’s mouth, so if that is not the intention of this statement I apologize to the author.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was actually wondering if that is what was meant. If so, that is actually a healthy conflict strategy. Sometimes discussions get out of hand, and emotions rise. We don’t want to say things out of anger that we may later regret, so it is good to take a break, get emotions back in control and pick up the discussion at a later time (preferably within 24 hrs or so). As you said, that is not ignoring the problem, and has the intent of following up.

        Avoidance is quite different. In avoidance, there is no intent to pick things up and deal with them at a later time. It’s preferable to just ignore the situation completely, and hope that it will go away on it’s own. In avoidance, there is a hope for “magic wands” to take care of our problems for us, because they are seen as too difficult or painful to actually face and address.

        For people who exhibit avoidance, sometimes they use the excuse that they are simply “taking time to think about things”. But that time will go on forever, and the issue will never be brought up again by them.

        People who exhibit avoidance will put a tremendous amount of energy into maintaining the status quo – no matter how badly it is working. Change is feared, and seen as a bad thing. However if that same level of energy were to be spent actually facing and dealing with issues, the avoidant person would likely be in a much better place.

        Like

  1. Caring people need to listen to each others opinions and try to find a middle ground.Avoiding issues generally leads to a festering gap in the relationship. I have been married and divorced twice. Both times there were fundamental areas that we simply could not find mutually acceptable terms.
    As you mentioned child rearing and finances are a big problem in many relationships. Facing these differences of opinion swiftly, humbly and honestly can reveal whether a relationship can work or if it should be ended to reduce future pain to all parties involved; long term effects to moms, dads and children need to be considered carefully.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Caring people need to listen to each others opinions and try to find a middle ground.”

      I love that line. It seems so obvious, but at the same time it can be so hard.

      Avoidance destroys this, while building resentment. And another big issue is ego – where people need to be “right” and can’t accept that the other person opinion may be just as valid.

      I still think back to lessons my Grandma taught me – just because I CAN win something doesn’t mean I always should. Letting each person have their moment is more important.

      You make a great point about fundamental differences. Sometimes there simply is no middle ground. You need to be able to accept the other person as they are, and if not, then you have a problem. Unfortunately people often don’t discuss the main conflict points early enough, figuring “love will get them through”. And it does for a while. But eventually those conflict points show up, and if you find out you have fundamental differences after you are already married or have kids, then it’s kind of late.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think many of us are guilty of this. I know I don’t have much of a voice, but I think it’s an important topic and one that more people need to think about. People need to be aware that avoiding things may allow them to escape stress/discomfort in the short term, but in the long term it does considerable harm. And I believe that more often then not, it lays the groundwork for a failed (or at least unhappy) relationship.

      Communication isn’t easy. But if both people truly care about it and want the relationship to last in the long term, then working on improving your communication every day is really the key to success.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post hits close to home for me. I lived my life for so long avoiding anything that caused me fear, conflict, pain, or discomfort. The end result was withdrawing from life and retreating into a fantasy world. There is no pain, fear, or conflict in the world that I created for myself.

    But why would I do this to myself? Simple, it was easy. It’s so much easier to avoid fear, pain, or confrontations than to deal with it.

    Avoidance also is part of the survival instinct that we all have. I don’t have to encounter the bear in the woods if I avoid the bear. Better yet, avoid the woods entirely. Why not just stay indoors, where it is safe. This is how I thought.

    This line of reasoning eventually leads to avoiding life in all forms. If anything caused me stress, I would avoid it like the plague. But eventually I realized that life was passing me by and I was doing nothing about it. I literally tried to avoid living.

    However, to get better is very difficult. It got worse before it got better. I had to expose myself to anything and everything that cause me fear and anxiety. At first, the pain increased, but I persevered and I got better.

    This is why Avoidance is so deadly. My coping mechanism was to avoid, but to overcome it, I had to confront all that I was avoiding, going against every survival instinct that I had. And in the short term, I got worse (greater anxiety and fear). The deck is stacked against you right from the beginning.

    For those that are suffering from Avoidance and Anxiety, all I can say is that you have to tackle it head on, and it will get better. Much better. All of life will open up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s why avoidance is so deadly. You get in this feedback loop where things make you uncomfortable so you avoid them, and the more you do that the easier it gets to avoid more and more things. It can pick up steam and get to the point that you avoid ANYTHING that bothers you or makes you uncomfortable.

      But how do we grow? How do we learn?

      We learn and grow by doing things that are slightly out of our comfort level, and as we do them we become more comfortable until eventually we build up proficiency. That’s the whole point behind the concept of “practice makes perfect”.

      However avoidance prevents people from doing things that make them uncomfortable, so they only do things that are “safe”.

      I think that’s why people with anxiety/avoidance become unhappy and get stuck in a rut. They aren’t challenging themselves or growing as individuals.

      And as you said, the only way to get out of the loop is to go against the very coping mechanisms that have been built up in the first place. Very, very difficult to do.

      Thanks for sharing

      Like

  3. Pingback: Passive Aggression | thezombieshuffle

  4. Pingback: 3 Keys to a Successful Relationship | thezombieshuffle

  5. Pingback: Happiness is Overrated | thezombieshuffle

  6. Pingback: Why Counselling Fails | thezombieshuffle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s