Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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Avoidance: necessary or harmful?

An interesting question was raised in the last Mindfulness group regarding when is it OK to avoid an anxiety-provoking situation or person, and when is it maladaptive………. is mindfulness ie. being with the present moment no matter what… always indicated?

 

This came on the heels of an article I received the same day by Dr. Ronald Seigel, author of many books and articles on mindfulness, naming avoidance as one of the main causes of human misery… contributing to depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

 

There is a reason we avoid: in order to evolve we have to avoid pain to avoid being hurt. Your brain remembers when you last touched a hot stove in order not to repeat it In the same way, if we feel hurt or slighted by someone we tend to avoid them to avoid painful feelings.

 

In the name of living the Good Life, there are without doubt people and situations that we should do our best not to spend time around. These are the ones where you go away with an uneasy feeling, your inner knowing telling you for some reason this is not your tribe. We have to tune in with mindfulness to suss out exactly what we are feeling….

 

However, if the very act of avoidance is causing anxiety and perhaps limiting or affecting your life in a negative fashion, maybe there is something there to look at and act upon? Is a brave conversation, an action, forgiveness, love or therapy needed in order to feel right again? Only with mindfulness can you discover your own inner truth that has the answer.

 

Does it feel like a choice for your health or like you are running away from something?

 

For example, if you were involved in a car accident and find that you have to avoid the site of the accident because it causes so much anxiety, this would be a problem if it affects your life and you are having to take a big detour to work, or you are having flashbacks and need to process the incident. Also, it requires a huge amount of precious energy to avoid physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

What about you? Answer the following questions:

*  What are you spending undue negative energy avoiding in your life?

*  Is this something you would ultimately like to resolve or are you making a healthy choice for yourself?

*  If it is something that is taking up too much brain power and there is some action to take, what brave steps would you have to take to do that, and what’s the worst that could happen?

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