One of the most popular coping mechanisms and often one that goes most unnoticed is AVOIDANCE. When something causes us distress mentally, emotionally, or physically, this is the way many of us deal. We all do, and have done this at some point in our lives, because it is natural for us to want to avoid pain in any of its forms. This is not a bad thing. Avoidance and denial are relatively harmless methods of coping that can be quite useful in the short term to help us manage the tasks that keep our lives moving and functioning. However, over the long term, these strategies can result in significant internal damage and may end up coming out in other ways, such as physical or mental illness, poor job performance, relationship issues, or self destructive behaviors. Ultimately, there are so many great gifts within our pain, we just need to be courageous enough to face it.
Much of what causes us such “distress” is when we encounter our “shadow elements”. Shadow elements are the traits and qualities that we typically keep in the dark and project onto others, both at a personal and a collective level, creating the very convincing illusion that such elements do not belong to us. Our life situations and relationships with others are constantly reflecting this stuff back to us for us to see and work with.
This is why learning the tools to do shadow work, and/or finding a well-versed practitioner to help you do the work and be a mirror for you, is so important. Shadow work can be defined as the practice of acknowledging, facing, engaging, and integrating what we have turned away from, disowned, or otherwise rejected in ourselves. Our specific issues become most apparent in our judgments of ourselves, others, or our life situations.
Our suffering arises from what some would call our conditioning or our domestication. Often, these childhood events that compromised our sense of feeling safe and/or wanted in some way were the causal factors in our learning to enact behaviors of control and acceptance. Our suffering does not come directly from the conditioning per se, but our identification with it and the issues it brings up for us.
If you find yourself engaging in the following avoidance mechanisms (more than just moderately), it may be time to seek some help and/or learn some tools that you can use in your life to work through that which you are trying to avoid in the first place. You can only avoid something for so long, but eventually, life will keep putting it in your face until you deal with it, learn from it, and give thanks for it.
Key Avoidance Mechanisms
- Smoking (Tobacco or Marijuana) (Or a combination of the two or three)
- Excessive TV Watching
- Over Eating
- Over Exercising
- Spiritual Bypassing – employing spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid dealing in any significant depth with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.
- Projection – seeing your own unwanted feelings in other people
- Acting Out – not coping, giving in to the pressure to misbehave
- Denial – refusing to acknowledge that an event has occurred
- Displacement – shifting of intended action to a safer target
- Distancing – moving away
- Fantasy – escaping reality into a world of possibility
- Idealization – playing up the good points and ignoring limitations of thins desired
- Intellectualization – avoiding emotion by focusing on facts and logic
- Passive Aggression – avoiding refusal by passive avoidance
- Performing Rituals – Patterns that delay
- Rationalization – creating logical reasons for bad, or self-destructive behavior
- Reaction Formation – avoiding something by taking a polar opposite position
- Regression – returning to a child state to avoid problems
- Repression – subconsciously hiding uncomfortable thoughts
- Symbolization – turning unwanted thoughts into metaphoric symbols
- Trivializing – making small what is really something big
When you begin to notice that you have been enacting avoidance mechanisms, they can be a really good indicator that something more significant is a play behind the scenes of your conscious mind and that it is time to start looking at where you feel uncomfortable and some of the best ways to begin to engage and work with that discomfort before it becomes something bigger mentally, emotionally or physically. That is precisely the service I offer people. If you want to understand and overcome those difficult and uncomfortable things that you have continually struggled with, then book and appointment today! I will help you find the transformation and peace of mind you have been looking for.