When Does Avoidance Become a Useful Coping Method

The past month since I started back at work on a part time basis, I have very quickly fallen into my default mechanism to cope: AVOIDANCE. The Oxford English Dictionary defines avoidance as ‘not doing something; preventing something from existing or happening’. What do I mean when I use the word Avoidance? How I use avoidance is not about not doing something, it is more akin to the second half of this definition, which is where I prevent something from existing or happening.

This is probably my default coping method because it has been drilled into me by my mother that hard work is a ‘virtue’ that is necessary for one to succeed in life. Her perception of what ‘success’ means scoring straight As, have a good career that pays loads of money. I use hard work as a means to block everything out; from the sexual and emotional abuse to making sure that I would be allowed play time when I was a child. Mother would not allow me out to play until all my homework was done and I have revised what I learnt in school that day. Whenever I fall short in achieving this goal that was set for me, I was reminded that I am not smart enough or too lazy. Guilt and shame was what my mother would use to condition me into fulfilling her expectations of me.

The guilt and shame has never left me. I still feel guilt and shame whenever I choose pleasure before doing anything productive. This conditioning of ‘work first, play later’ followed me throughout my teenage years, through university and everything I do in life. Guilt would eat me inside when I decide to just relax for a few hours, instead of starting my days off work studying or doing prep work for lectures when I used to work as a university lecturer. Even when I have worked hard and earned my time to do something pleasurable, this voice in my head would rear its ugly head and tell me that I have not done a good job, that I should not be relaxing. So, I don’t think I have ever really truly enjoyed the moments whenever I was doing something that was pleasurable. The pleasure out of the pleasurable activities/moments gets blunted because of this.

Any achievement that I have achieved has never made me feel that I am good enough. I struggle to acknowledge the achievement even thought the success was tangible and measurable. I still struggle with this. Growing up, I have been told by my mother and teachers alike that I am not smart enough, that I am stupid, that I am lazy. I know that it is ludicrous to still believe the validity of this, but the truth is, I still do. I truly believe that these negative attributes are part of me. I am working towards slowly changing my perception that I am not all that. That I AM smart enough and hard working. At this point, even typing these words right now, makes me feel that I am a fraud to think so.

So, when is it good to use avoidance as a coping method? Till now, I have not really answered this question. Well, in my opinion, I think avoidance is necessary when you feel that life is getting too difficult and your mind and body is telling you to not ruminate on these difficulties because it will only paralyse you. This is exactly what I am letting myself do, so that I avoid feeling the repressed feelings that I need to feel for my recovery from all the traumatic pass. I am reminding myself that this avoidance, must be temporary and that this time, avoidance will not numb and suppress my feelings and pain, which will inevitably bubble up and plunge me into the depths of depression once again.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s