Distraction vs. Avoidance

We all experience strong emotions from time to time.

Many of us impulsively push them away. Hey there my fellow avoidant types! We push as hard as we can against a perceived force of resistance. It brings us a false sense of security.

Why feel uncomfortable emotions if we don’t have to?

But check this… this is only a short term solution. What we avoid always comes raging back at some point or another. Short term fixes are elusive and persuasive. I have a habit of wanting to avoid nasty emotions too, so I get the pull here. Something I’ve discovered over the years is that avoidance rarely leads to long term happiness though.

What we resist, persists.

I tend to prefer escapism as a form of avoidance (exercise, food, and alcohol all fit in this category). I’ve been working hard to undo this maladaptive behavior myself, as I know many of you are. Hence the focus on it as of late.

Distraction on the other hand is strikingly different and can offer much needed reprieve in the interim.

We all need to delay dealing with difficult situations in moments of uncertainly. These are called distraction behaviors and they are completely normal. The difference here is intent.

When you distract yourself from emotional or difficult situations, you have the *intent* of returning to the issue later. You do not forget. You do not avoid indefinitely. Our brain has a limited capacity for rational thought when we are in fight or flight mode; so it only makes sense to take a break and revisit when we chill and rational thought can be engaged.

A way to pinpoint if you’ve been utilizing avoidance rather than distraction is to note if you seem to be experiencing old issues over and over again—akin to a cyclical experience. As you can see that indicates lack of growth. Feeling emotions leads to awareness of what is working and what is not in our lives. It is data. Now, I’m sure you can see why we don’t want to indefinitely avoid negative emotional states if our ultimate goal is to improve upon our lives, ehh?

As stated, we all need to escape difficult situations every now and then. These are called distraction behaviors and they are completely normal.

However, they can easily become avoidance behaviors when we fail to pay attention to our behaviors.

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