Confronting avoidance.

Thursday October 27, 2016

I have issues with avoidance. If something upsets me, I won't think about it. If something causes me anxiety, I don't do it, or I will do it in a convoluted way, e.g. I will reach my destination by travelling further than I need to avoid the anxiety.

I've never had issues with this facet of my personality. Surely everyone avoids things that they don't like? Don't like coffee? Don't drink it. Frightened of spiders? Get someone else to remove them from the bath for you. It's only recently that I've started to realise that my avoidant tendencies are actually quite detrimental to my wellbeing. I believed that this avoidance was protecting me, which, in a way, it was. But the harsh reality is, that it was, and is, limiting my life and my ability to enjoy it.

Hand in hand with my avoidance is my sheer terror of confrontation. I need to turn all of this on its head and start confronting avoidance head on. In Ruby Wax's books 'Sane New World' and 'Mindfulness for the Frazzled' she writes about creating new neural pathways in the brain to reinforce new patterns of thinking and behaviours and breaking the pathways for thinking and behaviours which are not beneficial for your mental health.

I'm doing this by taking small steps and starting to confront the things which I have been avoiding. Some of these avoidances have been in my life for a significant number of years, and so those neural pathways are going to take a lot of effort to break down and replace with more productive ones. It's not going to be easy, and there are times where I really don't have the energy to make the effort to change, but I also know that each day I start afresh and I can try again. Each attempt to confront my avoidance is paving a new pathway. I've heard it likened to taking a walk in the woods; those well-trodden pathways are well maintained and easy to walk. The paths I need to take are over-grown and difficult to pass, but each time I take them, the path becomes easier to walk, and those other pathways start to become less used and overgrown.

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