You may be avoiding more than you think, because we humans are crafty and amazingly adept at self deception. If you are willing to examine your habits, your likes and dislikes, you may find some interesting information about yourself.
Start with this simple phrase “I don’t want to ______”
How often do you hear yourself thinking or saying that? Are there any patterns to the activities you don’t want to do? How many of these activities have you decided you don’t want to do before you have ever done them? For me, I recognize the avoidance behavior now because I feel young, as in childish and immature, not as in vibrant and youthful.
Examples for me usually include something social, but it is more complicated than simply having other people involved that makes it seem like something I don’t want to do.
I don’t want to:
(I have never and think I will never)
- Join the PTA
- Run for government office
- Volunteer at my kids’ school
- Host a dinner party
- Knock on the neighbor’s door to say hello
- Eat slimy seafood like clams, oysters, squid, octopus
- Dive – Skydive, scubadive
- Ask a question at a parent’s meeting
- Live in a tiny home (my house is small, but come on, those are insane)
I don’t want to:
( I have done these before but will try hard not to again)
- Go camping
- Attend a party for no purpose – like a neighbor’s backyard bonfire, cocktail party, work picnic, friend’s dinner party
- Attend a sporting event
- Eat a pickle. Actually I don’t want to be in the same room as a pickle
- Make cold calls
- climb a mountain with a guide going at mountain goat pace
- paint an outdoor mural
- Face a grizzly bear in the wild
- Confront a psychopath
- Get pregnant
- Drive through that part of the city just because google map said so
- Get pulled over by a cop
- Get involved with lawyers
- Order a meal I have to yell to get – Chipotle
- Swim in the ocean
- Ride the roller coaster
I don’t want to:
(I have done these before but stopped, and I am trying to start again)
- Walk around my block
- Say hello to other parents
- Visit my brother
- Go to the dentist and OB/GYN
- Forgive myself
- Talk with Hubby openly
- Have career goals/plans
- Drive through certain neighborhoods
- sleep at night
- let anyone touch me
- stop eating sugar
- make a real life friend
- go to movies with hubby
- take kids places without hubby
- go to a concert
- plant flowers
- create – paint, draw, sculpt, music, write, build, craft
Basically I am figuring out which of my avoidance habits are based on fears, and which are true dislikes. And then I am figuring out which fears are worth tackling, because some clearly aren’t. I would be terrified and find it impossible to skydive or scubadive, but I see no reason to overcome those fears, because they aren’t holding me back, and aren’t keeping me from experiencing a full life. (some of you thrillseekers may disagree) Anxiety is hard, but I can manage.
Some of these items I have been avoiding because of pain or emptiness within me. I have been unable to enjoy, connect or feel what I used to feel, so I stopped doing what I used to do. I didn’t know I was actively avoiding them, but it hurts to think about how something used to feel and compare it to the emptiness. Depression is hard, but I can manage.
Some things I avoid because they are triggering, for flashbacks or memories of my trauma. I am learning new skills and tools every week in my counseling program to cope with these. Some items I think I can manage and some I think are completely broken and struggle with the effort I need to put into this program. PTSD is hard, but I can manage.
My goal is to slowly avoid less and less, incorporating more back into my life at a rate that does not overwhelm me. So far so good. I’ll share some of my progress – and setbacks – in another post.