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How to overcome avoidance and head in the sand

avoidance
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Do you tend to put your head in the sand when challenges arise? Instead of facing something head on, do you struggle with avoidance of the issue?

Someone from my past said they wished they’d never opened the mail when it revealed a suspended driver’s license. And that was over unpaid parking tickets they’d also avoided.

Avoidance is a maladaptive strategy for bypassing pain that only delays the inevitable. And makes that pain worse in many cases.

When we never learned to deal with conflict, we avoid it at all costs. If we experienced conflict as something bad or dangerous, the need to stay away from it feels life-saving.

But, of course, that’s the lie our minds made up to keep us safe. What worked in childhood, i.e.., smoothing things over to avoid a beating or tongue-lashing, only holds us back as adults.

Avoidance strategies

Procrastination is one avoidance strategy that causes more stress because it puts us in the position of having to scramble to get everything done at the last minute.

You may have even convinced yourself you work better under pressure. Whether true or not, you’d be a lot nicer to yourself if you paced your projects instead of overloading them at the end.

When we’re in survival mode, however, self-compassion rarely enters the equation. And many of us who suffered from unmet childhood needs are using a brain wired for survival.

Many of us who suffered from unmet childhood needs are using a brain wired for survival. Click To Tweet

That’s a mind on high alert for threat, fears making mistakes, and being viewed as foolish. Procrastination becomes a way to delay the inevitable failure we fear.

Addictive behaviors are another avoidance strategy. Rather than feeling your feelings and dealing with them, you drink them away, eat unhealthy comfort foods, or binge watch TV.

Workaholism is the most socially-acceptable of these addictions. Burying yourself in work becomes an excuse to avoid intimacy with family, friends, and self.

Avoidant attachment style

People with avoidant attachment can lose relationships or never find intimacy because they end things whenever conflict arises. Due to past conditioning, they fear conflict as life- or relationship-threatening.

People with avoidant attachment can lose relationships or never find intimacy because they end things whenever conflict arises. Click To Tweet

In many cases, they grew up in homes where conflict was forbidden. Perhaps feelings of any kind were eschewed and resulted in withdrawal of love from the caregiver.

This creates a personality in which the child (and later, adult) will avoid the necessary conflicts that increase intimacy. They are unable to support their partner’s emotional needs and will keep relationships superficial or end them.

You might avoid difficult conversations by keeping things on the surface. Instead of saying how you really feel, you act phony to maintain the status quo of the relationship (even though it’s superficial and unfulfilling).

When we use these avoidance strategies, we’re trying to keep pain at bay. But the pain we incur is far worse and longer-lasting. It can lead to an entire life that’s based on nothing more than escape from reality.

So, how to stop avoidance strategies and face conflict head on?

avoidance

1. Acknowledge your avoidance.

The first step to undoing unhealthy coping strategies is to recognize that we use them. Catch yourself when you go into avoidance instead of facing a conflict or challenge.

What triggers you? Can you slow things down before barreling down the road of avoidance? This is a process that can take years to come to terms with and you will likely need support, but you can begin anytime.

2. Feel your feelings.

Avoidance strategies come from a need to run from perceived pain. When we grew up learning that our feelings were unwanted, we tamp them down in order to survive.

When we grew up learning that our feelings were unwanted, we tamp them down in order to survive. Click To Tweet

As youngsters, without our parents love we feared we would die. So, when our emotions resulted in loss of love we did our best to stop feeling them.

We stopped asking for help and dealt with our needs on our own. If we can begin to acknowledge our feelings and share them with others we’ll stop feeling so alone.

3. Consider the consequences.

Can you see the consequences of your avoidance all around you? The lack of fulfillment, fake relationships, and isolation? Are you ready to change that?

Can you see the consequences of your avoidance all around you? The lack of fulfillment, fake relationships, and isolation? Click To Tweet

Have you considered the benefits of facing conflict? Did you know that relationships go to the next level as a result of resolving necessary conflict? The couple who never argues is not necessarily healthy, but avoidant.

Personal growth arrives through overcoming conflicts and challenges. Yes, it is painful sometimes to deal with these but it’s a short-lived pain that brings a worthwhile outcome.

Avoidance, however, may keep pain away but produces a deeper kind of hurt. That’s an unlived life or one where you never get to find out who you really are.

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