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Would you believe that I’ve been avoiding the #reverb10 avoidance topic? Yep. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good reason for that, but then aren’t reasons just justifications for our need to avoid stuff? I kinda think that could be the case…

Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)
~ December 20 prompt

You know what? I don’t believe in “should” any more. “Should” suggests that if you don’t do something, then you’re a bad person or a failure in some way and I think that’s a load of horse dung.

However, I can talk for miles about avoidance. From first-hand experience I can tell you that avoidance is a coping strategy, and if you’re living with PTSD or any other kind of anxiety or depression then you’re gonna be a master of avoidance. You’ll probably even avoid talking about the things you avoid, especially if asked a direct question.

Why? Because the things a person in that situation is avoiding – large or small – are things their subconscious considers dangerous to their mental and/or physical health.

For example: I refused to say the name of my abuser to anyone, even myself. For almost three years I couldn’t write it, think of it and I sure as hell couldn’t say it. Eventually I did, but it almost killed me to get those words out.

My most common reference to that dude was “the guy who assaulted me”. I simply avoided drawing attention to the fact I hadn’t named him and as such, most people didn’t notice. Which was great because for the longest time his name – which is Apu – held a lot of power. Power I allowed it to have, not anything real.

So avoidance is a reaction to fear, and way of surviving when we feel threatened. But the more we give in to avoiding stuff, the less likely we are to do the thing we’re avoiding.

Avoidance in 2010

For the first four months of 2010 I avoided doing much at all about being a yoga teacher. Eventually I nailed myself on that however by telling myself I had to give it a go. As terrifying as it was I knew if I didn’t at least try, I’d kick myself later.

What else have I avoided? Hmmm, I’d say lots of things. I think it’s a standard human response to being busy, stressed or fearful and the best way to combat avoidance is to pay attention to what’s going on. It gets exacerbated by mental health issues, but we all have to deal with it in some way.

As I might’ve mentioned, I’m terrible with money and detest doing my own budget (although if I didn’t have one I’d be completely lost). So every pay day I drag my heels when it comes to looking at my budget spreadsheet, moving money around and paying bills.

Usually it only lasts a few days until I give myself a nudge, but in those days I notice my ever-increasing reticence to this mundane task. There’s a haze of (fake) confusion and overwhelm that grows in direct proportion to my heel-dragging.

Kicking avoidance in the nuts

In the 11 things post, I’ve made a list of the stuff I plan to kick out of my life next year. And if I’m going to avoid anything important, I guarantee you it’ll be something that’s on that list!

I find it helps to have such a list, put it somewhere prominent and then break it down into practical activities I can do. I also use Google calendar to send Future Me reminders because it synchs with my beloved iPhone. Reminders can be about specific tasks or a point in time to review how I’m going. The important thing about the reminders is to act on them as soon as they appear, otherwise they pointlessly float on by.

The other key for me to stop avoiding things is to be okay with what I do make happen. So what if things haven’t turned out exactly I as I wanted? Discarding my expectation of perfection dispels some of the fear of failure, and allows me to act in whatever capacity I can.

And after all, if I completely avoid things I want to do because I’m afraid it won’t work… then it really won’t work, will it?