In November, I wrote about the importance of honoring your emotions despite the temptation to avoid them (see Sally's story). However, if a person allows emotions to drive their behavior another type of avoidance can result, experiential avoidance. Part
of the temptation to avoid feelings stems from the fear that the
emotions will paralyze a person and keep them from living the full,
vibrant life they desire. This is a reasonable fear and this month's
topic. As always, thank you for reading.
years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you
didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail
away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
avoidance is one of the most common and most painful causes of
suffering. It occurs when an attempt to avoid a specific painful
emotion prevents a person from fully experiencing life. This can be
compared to Sally's attempt to avoid her painful feelings,
which resulted in the intensification of those feelings. However, when
referring to experiential avoidance, it is not an explosion of
suppressed feelings that magnifies the pain. It is the loss of experiences
that magnifies that very emotion being avoided. Like a person in
traffic feels their life passing and is taunted by the experiences
they are missing, so does the individual who misses their nieces' dance
recital in an attempt to avoid social anxiety or the individual who
missed art basel in an attempt to minimize his depression.
Another individual may avoid friends and family so he doesn't worry
about the work he has waiting for him at home. In all cases, when
repeated, the pain (anxiety, depression, stress) is only compounded by
the loss. A great deal can be missed in the name of pain avoidance.
sum, you DO have to feel pain.You can't avoid this inevitable part of
the human experience. The more a person tries, the more the pain is
directing your life and the stronger the pain becomes. The good news is that while pain is not avoidable, suffering is. You do not have to let your pain define you or direct your behavior.
Keep Your Emotions Out of the Driver Seat
are powerful tools that tell us when action is required. If you
feel sad in an emotionally abusive relationship, when you are fearful in
a dangerous situation or stressed in an unhealthy work place, these are
signals that you need to act. These may be experiences you need to
avoid for your health and wellbeing. However, at times our emotions are
not accurate in assessing the danger of the current situation. This is
due to conditioned responses from the past or a result of current
situational or lifestyle factors such as life stressors, lack of proper
nutrition or exercise, etc. When this occurs, instead of avoiding the
situation, it is a signal we should confront it. I like the image of the
painful emotion (fear, anxiety, self doubt) as a little child whose
hand you can hold as you take that necessary leap toward the full life
that you deserve. As most things are, it's easier said than done.
Try at least two of the suggestions below. Taking hold of your pain's little hand, leap away from avoidance and toward your life!
-The purpose of the repetitious theme, "You DO have to feel this", for
past two months is my attempt to push you along with this one.You do not
have to like a negative emotion or situation, but this stuff doesn't
kill you. Really!
observe, take a break from the rational mind. As one client put
simply, be the referee of your mind. Hold your neutral, nonjudgemental
position even as your thoughts (the players) continue with their chatter
..."yes we should", "no we shouldn't," "that was bad," "this is good."
- Just keep breathing, Just keep breathing... to the tune of finding Nemo's "Just keep swimming"
stretch and open up your body. It is calming and increases emotional
stability. Perhaps it will open up your experiential possibilities.
Here's a great psoas stretch to add to your repertoire click here
- Take response-ability. Recognize you are capable and able to respond.
- Review your values and see in what direction they are pointing. For more on value directed behavior click here.
This newsletter included content obtained from "Get out of Your Mind and Into your Life," by Richard Hayes.
Grow Heal Love
Personal Growth and Mind-Body Health
HEAL LOVE was founded to promote growth, healing and love in
individuals and communities. Services include psychotherapeutic
counseling, transpersonal counseling, transitional counseling, coaching,
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personal development workshops, life skills training, support
groups/group counseling and clinical supervision.
clients are motivated to take their life to the next level. They are
ready to work toward peace of mind, whether that means increasing
emotional well being, reaching a life goal or breaking self-destructive
patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. If you are tired, stressed,
unfulfilled, anxious or sad, DO NOT believe that this is the way life is
supposed to be. These feelings and subsequent behaviors create a
vicious cycle of negativity that can impact your relationships, career
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