My child is having a hard week at school. Friends were cruel. Peers they thought they could count on turned their back. Today, they’re in bed instead of the classroom, unable to face the prospect of another day of getting beaten down.
This is life, we tell them. You can’t close the door, turn off the lights and pretend time won’t pass or will undo what’s happened or will mend your pain. Go to school. Make it happen. Avoidance never works.
That’s when they stare into our eyes, shooting daggers, and insist we have no clue. If they show up, it will be awful, even more terrible than the day before.
Avoidance may feel like a coping skill; I know it does for my child. “I’ll watch videos for countless hours and will put out of my mind this thing I don’t want to think about…” Avoidance is sneaky. You think not ruminating or confronting a situation is helpful, but it’s maladaptive and stops you from moving forward. It’s choosing to be stuck.
Mom and Dad’s wisdom is not something that’s embraced by most teenagers who are finding their way in the world. However, after decades in the workforce and surviving teenage years ourselves, we know a thing or two or ten.
Whether you’re 13 or 75, attending school or in the workforce, some universal laws of life hold true.
Avoidance: Universal Laws
Avoidance doesn’t change anything in the present.
Shutting out all thoughts of yesterday’s experiences can’t erase the past.
Avoiding today won’t make it better tomorrow.
My child insists I don’t know all of the laws. Other things are always true too, they say. Not unless you can see the future, I insist right back. Their laws are based on fear, not the truth.
If I show up, it will get worse.
If I do it, I’ll fail.
If I try, people will laugh.
Even though we can’t see the future, we can make educated guesses about how our choices and behaviors will influence the outcomes.
Ready to give your psychic ability a go?
Stop showing up?
Hold back communication?
Step into the discomfort?
There is a lot of heartbreak and horror in the world right now. I know countless people who are walking away from social media so they won’t be confronted with post after post and image after image. It doesn’t mean the world stops, coronavirus is gone, and protests and injustice stop because you choose not to look. If your heart needs a break, I get it, but it’s your engagement with the world that has the power to change it for the better.
Avoidance of what makes you uncomfortable is choosing the status quo not only for yourself but also for others who need you to step up now, not when the dust settles.
Change requires you to embrace courage over fear and action over avoidance.
You can’t avoid life. Life is amazing and awful, and about a billion other points in-between. Reality is things will get tough, but those rough times are not a divine sign they’ll never get better. Also true, you’re not meant to be in the giddy-up place 24/7. That feeling of walking on air is not the same thing as contentment or deep satisfaction.
People are mean, crappy unexpected things happen, we get sick, hurt, and knocked around. We can also choose to get up, dust off, dig deep, work hard, and keep moving forward. Avoidance is a short term band-aid at best, it’s time to rip it off.