“We avoid the things that we’re afraid of because we think there will be dire consequences if we confront them. But the truly dire consequences in our lives come from avoiding things that we need to learn about or discover.”
What have you been avoiding this year? Is it a loved one, a difficult decision, or a much needed career change? Have you found yourself taking the long way home, screening all your calls, and coming up with innumerable (and increasingly implausible) excuses not to do something? Welcome, my friend, to the club. Although I am a counselor at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando, sometimes I am also a member of this club. We have many members.
We can spot each other in a crowd, especially at a party. There are many telling signs, readily apparent (to those who know) including the downward stare, the hurried pace, the pained expression, and the occasional furtive glance. We keep our cell phones close at hand, ready to receive bad news (causing an early departure from any event for an “emergency”) at a moment’s notice.
We avoid telling our spouses that we hate, hate, hate their favorite restaurant. We avoid telling our mothers that they are too overbearing/unavailable. We avoid the office Christmas party, the company picnic, and car pooling. We avoid phone calls, emails, bill collectors, girl scouts, income tax returns, taking out the trash and especially Valentine’s Day. We don’t line dance, we don’t play sports, and we don’t visit relatives who are not dying.
The question we should be asking ourselves this Christmas is simple: what is the pay off for avoiding “problems?” The answer is not so simple. We do it so that we won’t have to deal with pain and disappointment, right?
I decided to ask some trusted friends why they “hypothetically” avoided certain situations. I got the following responses… “Nothing ever comes of it.” “I don’t have the time or the energy.” “It just causes you a bunch of anxiety.” “Each party thinks that they don’t have a problem, and nothing is ever resolved.” “We have to maintain the ‘status quo’ (within the family) for the sake of the kids.” I honestly had trouble keeping up with the sheer volume of responses to my question. Apparently, there are A LOT of reasons to avoid conflict these days.
Okay, so why do we really avoid the people, places and things we find unpleasant? The mental health establishment says it’s because we fear one or more of the following: criticism, rejection, conflict, intimacy, or inadequacy. Well, who in their right mind would want to bring any of those things (except for intimacy) upon themselves? It’s a legitimate question. There’s just one little problem with avoidance. It grows. Avoidance leads to more avoidance, which leads to even more avoidance. Pretty soon, we find ourselves to be outsiders in our own lives. We become unwilling to be involved in social situations, and our feelings of tension and apprehension intensify to the point of social paralysis. Avoidant can become our defining characteristic.
To frame it in terms befitting the season, we can become a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge if we allow our fears to prevent us from attending to our social commitments and resolving our personal problems. Looking forward into the New Year, I am committed to not becoming a Dickensian archetype of loss and lack. I am going to- once and for all -renounce my membership in the club of avoidance. My New Year’s resolution is resolution.
If you’d like to join me and you need help finding your way, please contact me or one of our counselors here at Life Skills Resource Group. Kim
“…the only way out of something is often to go into it…confront it, face it, and overcome.”