My previous article posted on this blog (Anxiety: the vicious circle created by avoidance), explored the mechanism of avoidance and how it triggers a vicious circle increasing anxiety.
Avoidance is a defensive strategy that allows people to take distance from what produces anxiety. The function of avoidance, as of any defensive mechanisms, is to protect and therefore it can be either healthy or pathological depending on its intensity, flexibility or the moment it gets activated. Avoidance may reduce the psychophysical symptoms produced by anxiety and fear; on the other hand it may trigger a dangerous vicious circle where avoidance reinforces negative emotions.
So, where is the boundary between a useful defensive strategy and a noxious habit?
Here are some examples of situations that can be avoided, and situations that should not be avoided and should actually be addressed.
When to avoid
When we are not expressing our true self
Sometimes we act driven by what other people think is “right or wrong”, or by what is socially and culturally “good or bad”; even if it doesn’t reflect our thoughts and wills. For example, putting us out there to be chosen for a promotion does not make any sense if this is not what we want and could be avoided: perhaps we are just following an ideal of success that doesn’t belong to us and this causes us a great deal of stress and anxiety. Then we should avoid those situations where we are not driven by our true self and by our wishes because this could just lead us to feel frustrated and unfulfilled.
When it’s simply the wrong time
When we are upset and overloaded by emotions, we may say/do things impulsively; these are probably the things we are going to regret the most! If we act driven by feelings such as anger, resentment or pride we risk not thinking to the consequences this can have for both us and the other people involved. Therefore it’s best to avoid bringing up the issues when we can’t think clearly and to postpone it to a much calmer moment.
When to address
When someone you love and care for is involved
There are conflicts that you would want to resolve sooner rather than later, and this is when it concerns someone important to you; someone that you love and don’t want to lose, whether it’s a friend, a relative or a partner. Issues could degenerate in ruining a relationship, if not addressed.
Some people are afraid to bring up issues or to speak up, as they fear to damage the relationship or to hurt the other person. On the contrary, it’s easier to fix small issues when they arise because if we don’t, the issues could become bigger; this could bring resentment into the relationship and it will be harder and harder to find a solution.
When you experience fears and insecurities
Face your fears and overcome your insecurities, this will lead you to a livelier world! Everybody have their own fears but for some people this is a strong hold back from a fully lived life. Living in our comfort zone is nothing more than a safe, though boring, bet. Life can be challenging but once we address our fears we will be able to embrace new experiences and make the most of it in every part of our life.