Avoidance is one of the most common reactions to trauma. We might develop avoidance strategies in an effort to make ourselves feel safe and avoid particular places or situations, particular people or conversations. Unfortunately these avoidance strategies can result in us becoming quite isolated and leading restricted lives which in turn can make symptoms worse.
It can also refer to avoiding our own thoughts and emotions. It is natural to want to avoid thinking about or feeling emotions about a stressful event. But when avoidance is extreme, or when it’s the main way you cope, it can interfere with your emotional recovery and healing.
Not all avoidance is bad – deliberately focussing your thoughts and feelings on things that are not related to the trauma can be helpful in the short term. However, long term, your emotions may “fight back”, and keep surfacing, and more and more effort is needed to keep them at bay, making you more likely to be “on edge” and irritable.
How do we get a grip on our avoidance strategies?
It’s very important during our recovery, that we get more used to listening to our internal reactions. Let them guide you in the work you do. Trust the feedback your internal self gives and find ways to take the information and apply it to your recovery in ways that ease the process rather than make more challenging.
Which situations or places do you tend to avoid? At the top of the list put those which make you most anxious. At the bottom of the list put places or situations you sometimes avoid, but which don’t bother you very much. In the middle of the list put ones that are ‘in-between’. Give each item a rating from 0-100% according to how anxious you would feel if you had to be in that situation. Overcome your anxiety involves approaching these situations, starting from the bottom of the list, the least feared items. Think about how you can start to face the feared situation, perhaps breaking it down into smaller steps. You could also write ways in which you could cope such as going with a friend, deep breathing or visualising beforehand. My next blog article will look at other coping strategies:
- Feared situation – list from least feared to most feared
- Steps I need to take to face the feared situation
- Coping strategies I can use during the feared situation
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!