How to overcome avoidance strategies as coping mechanisms

avoidance strategies
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

If you grew up with unmet childhood needs, you may have adopted avoidance strategies as a way to cope. Instead of facing the issue head on, you distracted yourself from it.

As a child, you were too young to face your emotional or physical abuse or neglect. So, you found ways to soothe yourself that allowed you to avoid dealing with the truth.

For example, you may have minimized your needs and told yourself things weren’t that bad. Instead of feeling your emotions, you would push them down.

If you’re like me, avoidance strategies included using mind-altering substances as you got older. These provided relief from the pain of what you went through. Even when they created a new pain of their own.

As an adult, you might avoid conflict because that always got you into trouble. You avoid expressing your feelings because those were never listened to or supported.

As an adult, you might avoid conflict because that always got you into trouble as a child. Click To Tweet

You bypass your thoughts and emotions because you never learned how to handle them. Certain feelings may seem insurmountable because no one supported you through them.

Avoidance strategies are self-cruelty

As a result, you push those feelings and thoughts away instead of observing and accepting them compassionately. In this way, avoidance strategies constitute self-cruelty and guarantee you remain a mystery to yourself.

Avoidance strategies that stem from childhood abuse and neglect hurt us deeply into adulthood. They can impact your financial well-being when you hide your talents due to fear of visibility.

If, in childhood, being seen meant punishment or some other negative consequence, you learned to hide. This manifests as dimming your light, letting others take center stage, and flying under the radar to avoid criticism.

You may believe playing small keeps you safe. But it hinders your progress in life and limits how far you go in career and relationships.

You may believe playing small keeps you safe. But it limits how far you go in career and relationships. Click To Tweet

Promotion goes to the one who puts up his or her hand in the meeting. Not the one who hides and lets others take the spotlight.

In relationships, you miss out on the intimacy available when you share your thoughts and feelings. You lose the chance to connect deeply both with yourself and others.

avoidance strategies

Often, avoidance comes from the feeling we’re alone and have to fend for ourselves. We might not consider enlisting support because we weren’t raised to seek that out.

For example, you might turn down an invitation to a friend’s event without telling her why. You are used to being alone with your feelings and assume she will be upset if you tell her about your social anxiety.

Overcoming avoidance

What if instead you took the opportunity to tell your friend how you feel? Perhaps there’s a way you could navigate the issue together.

Recently, I told a new friend I would miss her party because of “courage burnout”. I’d been meeting a lot of new people and needed to simply comfort myself at home for a change.

Revealing this truth about my personality only deepened our friendship connection. She invited me out even more after that, to intimate or one-on-one events.

Sidestepping difficult conversations is another of the common avoidance strategies. When you suppress your feelings to keep the relationship intact you are repeating unhealthy patterns from childhood.

Your parents forced you to deny your feelings to keep them happy and maintain the status quo. You had to do that to survive back then.

But now you are self-sufficient, and loving yourself means putting your needs first. Instead of suppressing your wants and needs to keep someone else happy, tune into what you want and need.

Once again, remember you are not all alone as you may have felt in childhood. You can enlist support, whether paid or unpaid (counselor, lawyer, etc.)

I know the feeling of life or death that comes with the idea of upsetting someone. It’s a remnant from a childhood in which you were punished with rejection or abandomnent for speaking up.

The feeling of life or death that comes with the idea of upsetting someone is a remnant from childhood. Click To Tweet

As an adult learning to love yourself, it’s important to put your relationships to the test. Conflict is a good way to find out who is for you and who is only for themselves.

The days of us doing everything we can to preserve a false relationship are over. Now we want to know who’s on our side so we can move away from them if they’re not.

Share this


  1. Emma

    😫Thank you!💕