The irony of writing a blog titled, “The Art of Avoidance” is that I have been avoiding writing this for some time now. Day after day, I come into work, look at the blank page and say, “I’ll do it later.” In the blink of any eye, those days turned to weeks and, on the day before it was due, I found myself in the same spot, in the same position, rubbing my eyes in the same way I had weeks prior. At this point, the question wasn’t, “what do I write about,” it was, “why do I do this to myself?”
Why would I take something so potentially easy and draw it out long enough to impose lingering, unnecessary stress? Likely, because avoidance is powerful in the moment: the comfort of not having to deal with something, now, is immediately gratifying and an easy way to slip into agreeable complacency.
This isn’t a suggestion that tackling projects immediately will be a painless walk in the park – it is a reminder that avoidance leads to two options: either the project is never completed or, the project is eventually completed but not without the chronic stress tied to time-wasting. Throughout life there are decisions that elicit some options: do it now, do it later, or never do it.
Avoidance can be as obvious as just saying, “not right now,” but as subtle as burying social awkwardness through an unbreakable stare into a smartphone. Think about how many times a day you might avoid doing something: answering a phone call or text, saying hi to a passerby, doing tasks on the job, or even writing a blog. While some of these might seem minor and insignificant, the potential for these instances to build into a habit of avoidance isn’t farfetched. Practice makes perfect, and avoiding the smaller things makes it that much easier to avoid the larger things down the road.
Avoidance fosters anxiety. Have you ever avoided a public speaking engagement or crowd presentation? The longer these things are put off, the less familiar we are with confronting these events and the harder it becomes to partake. We often ask our clients to experience their uncomfortable feelings, using the resources and support around them to healthily decrease their anxiety. As we tackle the things we would usually avoid, the anxious purgatory of avoidance in which we wait, dwindles.
Why can avoidance become an “art?” Consider the lengths some will go to avoid doing something or avoid even sitting with an uncomfortable feeling. For many of us, sitting with anxiety, sadness, or some other form of distress leads to occupying our time by engaging in other activities, like burying our noses in a smartphone.
This period of discomfort is exactly what we need in order to grow. To be able to sit with the discomfort and learn healthy ways to get through our walls is an unparalleled opportunity to learn. Through learning to process our anxieties and confronting what we avoid, self-medication in any form becomes of less and less use and healthy coping strategies begin to emerge.
By: Ryan Hocking