Do you find yourself avoiding scary feelings? Are you running away from things you don’t want to face? How are you facing your fears instead?
We start our conversation with Kathy and Sabah with a couple of definitions, recognizing that pausing is healthy, while avoiding is usually not.
Pause: interrupt action or speech briefly. – from Google
A pause is a short period when you stop doing something before continuing. – from Collins English Dictionary
synonyms: Stop, Cease, Halt , Discontinue
Avoidance: an act or practice of avoiding or withdrawing from something – from Merriam Webster Dictionary
synonyms: dodge, retreat, flight, escape, sidestep
And also a couple of quotes.
A ‘No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. – Mahatma Gandhi
When I was younger, I was terrified to express anger because it would often kick-start a horrible reaction in the men in my life. So I bit my tongue. I was left to painstakingly deal with the aftermath of my avoidance later in life, in therapy or through the lyrics of my songs. – Alanis Morissette
We talked briefly about an article titled “Avoidance Coping and Why It Creates Additional Stress“, which included some tips on “How to avoid avoidance coping.”
What is avoidance coping? Briefly, it is “trying to avoid stressors rather than dealing with them.” But often, this just causes more stress.
How can you stop avoiding and instead actively cope with stressful situations? Some of the recommended steps may sound familiar. The article has a longer list with more details, of course.
- Recognize when you are doing it (i.e. Step 4).
- Take small steps (for me, this is often what happens in Steps 6 & 7)
- Identify other options, find new ways to relieve stress, and practice them (ditto plus at least Step 11).
How did we run away?
Kathy described the “back story” of this topic, which included not avoiding discomfort while recording our earlier episode (356 – Domestic Violence and Other Unacceptable Behavior).
When do we (or did we) avoid scary feelings, and how? Kathy says that she packs away her feelings, “… those things are not something that's healthy for me to dig in. Like it's better to just move on and focus on other things.” The idea of dealing with them later is something I can identify with, for sure. But, does “later” ever come? Spencer relates an occasion when “later” was forced by a deadline, and he discovered that what he had been fearing was not real. He could have avoided months of anxiety by just dealing with it earlier.
What tools do we have?
A tool that helps us to “unpack” these feelings that have been packed away is the 4th Step inventory. We can dig deep in our “searching and fearless” inventory with the help of our sponsor or step group. Asking for relief of shortcomings (such as procrastination) in Steps 6 and 7 helps us to be able to stay with our feelings in the moment, instead of running away. Sabah says “emotion doesn't control me anymore. I [can] say that I own my emotions.”
Slogans such as “take it easy”, “first things first”, “just for today,” and “how important is it?” help us to take those small steps away from avoidance and into living life more openly and intentionally. The “3 A's” of awareness, acceptance, and action provide a framework for change. Awareness is a key—our inventory helps us to become aware of our patterns of avoidance, and then we can start to see that pattern earlier and eventually to notice it as it happens, an even before. With acceptance of our pattern, we can then begin to take action to change.
Readings and Links
We read from Courage to Change, March 10; and excerpts from Discovering Choices, pp. 75-77.
We discussed the article Avoidance Coping and Why It Creates Additional Stress from verywellmind.com.
A listener wrote in about ACA resources The Laundry List, The Other Laundry List, and The Flip Side of the Laundry List.
She also shared, “Here are some links I found helpful in case someone else is experiencing sexual coercion or abuse or wants resources on how to leave safely. My abuse was very difficult to recognize while I was experiencing it. Please access these resources in a safe place and clear your browser.”
A listener asked whether the daily meditations, mentioned in early episodes, were still available. You can search for specific topics and terms, or you can browse all of them at this link.
Our topic for next week is “in all our affairs”. How do you use your recovery tools and principles in your daily life? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email email@example.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
1 comment on “Avoidance (running away from scary feelings) – 362”
Thank you! I find your podcast while my husband was in a treatment program. My mom was also in NA but I did not know or understand what Al-Anon was/is. I really appreciate finding your podcast and it meant alot to me at this time in my life. I learned so much about avoidance and really appreciated this format and your show.