22 Feb

Why avoidance does not work

Ahhh, avoidance. That little sneaky thing we do, hoping it will help us cope with anxiety, a low mood, anger or any other upsetting emotion. Barely helping us to relieve things temporarily, only to hit us in the face even harder when it returns.

Does that sound familiar to you?

We live in such a fast-paced world. Everything needed to be done yesterday, and we have no time to spare for today. Who has time to be anxious or depressed? On the one hand, avoidance makes sense. Do you know the story behind the ostrich digging a hole in the sand so it can wiggle it’s head in there? Or the famous quote “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Avoidance is everywhere, and society seems to go along with this strange concept.

On the other hand, avoidance does not make any sense at all. Imagine for one second, that there is a plate next to you. And on that plate is the most delicious, just out-of-the-oven brownie you have ever smelled. Now add an imaginary scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can you seen the ice cream melting as it touches the brownie?

Do you have a clear picture of this mouth-watering brownie?

Now try to ignore it. Forget we ever had such a picture in mind.

Difficult, if not nearly impossible right?

That’s exactly why avoidance of emotions and feelings does not work. It’s like having a screaming child next to you, and pretending you don’t hear it. “Pretending” being the key word here.

The opposite of “avoidance” is “acknowledgement”. Next time you feel yourself getting upset, or anxious, or sad, tell yourself “I’m feeling [replace with upsetting emotion], and that’s ok”. Becoming aware of how emotions and feelings affect you, is the number one ingredient to learning to cope with upsetting feelings. After you have acknowledge what made you upset, refocus your mind using a mindful reset tool.