Why is facing reality so hard? The how and why of avoidant behaviors

“Face your fears. Know what you’re realistically capable of. Create a reality you love.”

Life is peppered with these statements from well-meaning folks, myself included. While these saying are meant to encourage and motivate, facing reality continues to be a struggle for many.

 

not facing the truth
Just because you look away, doesn’t mean it’s not happening…

 

What is it about “facing the music” that causes people to run? To indulge in too much alcohol so that they don’t have to face reality and instead, be numbed out for a while? To self-sabotage healthy relationships so that they don’t have to face the reality of being a part of a part of a healthy union? To flat out shut down and refuse to talk about the issues that need to be addressed the most because you think that avoidance will cause disappearance?

Let me remind you. Avoiding an issue does not cause it to go away. In fact, avoiding your truth, your reality, is a surefire way to prolong the inevitable and cause tension within yourself and others.

 “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

Reality is avoided because it means we must be the best version of ourselves and own up to our mistakes however humbling that process may be. And quite frankly, people don’t want to have to 1) be the best version of themselves or 2) own up to their mistakes. Thus avoidance enters the picture.

I once knew a woman that absolutely recognized that there were issues in her marriage. She was able to cite these problems to me and anyone else that would listen. However, she was not able to address them with the person that she needed to the most: her husband. Instead, they skirted around the issues, swept their problems under the proverbial carpet, and consequently became more and more distant from one another. What happened with this marriage? It disintegrated and resulted in divorce. All because both partners avoided the issues at home at all cost. Their work lives maintained, yet their relationship died and they both talked about feeling a loss, a sense of profound sadness in their personal life because the relationship was no more.

Owning our reality is uncomfortable. Reality is allowing life to be exactly what it is, no rose-colored glasses or avoidant behaviors in place. And I’ve noticed that people do not like this unglamorous, real-life way of living.

Sure, accepting reality is difficult, but the end result is one that so far outweighs the feelings of uncomfortableness that if most people knew that truth, they would wonder why they ever waited so long to accept the reality of their current situation.

When you accept reality, relationships will change. And in turn, facing reality will cause you to change! When you are able to see your relationships for what they are and begin to see yourself in the natural light of day, your relationships will naturally become more authentic because you are not living in a façade of make-believe.

When you are more authentic and self-aware, you will be able to observe how your interactions with others make you feel, gaining confidence in your ability to be discerning.

Avoidance is a technique that temporarily alleviates pain or discomfort. Ultimately, avoidance becomes almost a defense mechanism to protect yourself from the truth.

So you find out your partner is cheating yet you continue to live like nothing has happened? Avoidance can be used here to save face for the kids, to keep up public personas, and to attempt to maintain normalcy, yet this kind of behavior can only continue for so long. Maybe the very act of avoidance is causing you to drink alcohol more often or spend more time away from the house because you can’t handle the stress. Either way, the situation is not healthy.

Living in make-believe land is only a temporary reprieve from everyday stress.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Consider the aspects in your life where you have either consciously or unconsciously avoided the truth.

What would it be like for you to accept reality?

How would it change your life to admit that you are in an unhealthy situation/relationship/lifestyle?

In what ways would you have to make self-improvements once you accept reality?

Realize that the only person that can accept your reality is you. And likewise, the only person that you can control is yourself. If you are not living your truth, if you are not currently living the reality that you want to, then you have to be the one to make healthy changes. No one else will make the changes for you.

Accepting reality is accepting yourself in all the best and worst parts. While the process can be humbling and cause you to face parts of yourself that aren’t your favorite, it is necessary and if utilized correctly, can be life-changing.

Recognize when you are using avoidance behaviors in an effort to not face reality. Make the decision to be cognizant of truths and even better, seek truth in your everyday existence.

“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Be the best version of yourself that you can be, today and everyday.

Wishing you success in accepting reality and seeking truth daily,

Rachel Ann

Taking off the mask: what is your persona?

My favorite part of my day is often coming home and washing my face. I love the feeling of washing the day away and fully embracing a level of comfort that I’m unable to throughout the day.

I feel safe, secure, and completely supported in my home so it’s no wonder that my literal “mask” can come off. I no longer have to embrace the persona that my current job entails, instead I can just fully relax. I am able to quietly reenergize through introverting and having a quiet night at home with my husband.

Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, is one of my favorite psychological theorists. I do a lot of work with my clients on how the four archetypes (The Self, The Shadow, The Anima or Animus, and The Persona) manifest themselves in their lives. The persona is one of Jung’s four archetypes that he uses to explain personalities and behaviors that we show the world. Persona is quite literally the Latin word for mask. Jung proposed that our persona is the mechanism to which we protect our ego; if we are not an “open book” and others do not know how we are truly feeling, then the ego does not have as much risk of being injured.

Our persona is a collection of our behavioral characteristics, demeanor, and even ways of speaking that we exhibit to various social settings. A truly evolved, mentally healthy individual is able to recognize which parts of their persona are being utilized and ultimately should strive to be the most authentic version of themselves that they can be—drawing all aspects of who they are and bringing them to every social and personal situation. However, more times than not, the collaboration of persona and authentic self does not occur.

Persona, the mask or image we present to the world. Designed to make a particular impression on others, while concealing our true nature.

                                                                                                  -Carl Jung

Consider this: you go to see your favorite musician. They are charismatic, energetic, and engaging on stage. Afterwards, you wait to meet them and observe that there is an awkwardness, almost a shyness about them. The juxtaposition of what you have just observed them doing on stage versus who they are in real life is quite apparent.

That, my friends, is quite simply the concept of persona. We all to a certain degree, have a “face” that we put on to brave the world.  Humans learn that they must behave differently in different settings in order to elicit a certain desired effect. I recently watched a documentary on the very talented musician Amy Winehouse where she spoke to the persona in her own terms. She talked about her shyness, how she was actually a person that enjoyed keeping to herself but when her fame escalated, it created a sort of discomfort in her.

When our public personas become so different from who we really are underneath the “mask”, psychological discomfort ensues. Having to “play” such different life roles on a daily basis then becomes a confusing situation where a person may start to try to escape through maladaptive means. In an effort to alleviate [and escape] the anxiety that a person begins to experience from not incorporating all aspects of their personality, they may start to engage in sexually deviant behaviors, substance use/abuse, and or even calling into work because the stress is too much (just to name a few that I’ve witnessed in the clinical setting).

Think of public personalities that become involved in scandals. I think of former U.S. House of Representatives politician, Anthony Weiner, who was involved in several sexting scandals. He displayed the public persona of a vocal liberal Democrat, not afraid to voice his opinions on various topics. However, in his personal life, he was quite devious and engaged in several very scandalous sexting incidents. One could argue that his shadow archetype (shadow archetype next on the blog) was at play here, but I also think that his persona disfigurement was the culprit. Even his wife had to put on a public persona of support for her husband after the incidents came to light. I can only imagine what was happening behind closed doors in her home. Do you see the example of when your public persona and personal persona collide? For many, those that are closest to us are also affected.

The healthiest individual has a clear understanding of who they must be in certain situations, yet that person is able to retain characteristics of themselves in all situations. I know for example, that I do better with one on one situations. I may be at a get together, but you will not see me entertaining the crowd. I feel most comfortable making my way around the room, interacting with one person at a time, having a quality interaction. I know that this plays largely into what I do on a daily basis: interacting with an individual therapy client. I don’t feel as if I’m having to compromise who I am in an effort to work, and I come home feeling happy with my interactions. Incorporating public and personal personas.

Think about who you are at home, and who you are in the public eye. Are they one in the same? Are there similarities? Do you come home feeling like yourself or do you feel like you’re wearing a mask that does not fit? Only you know and only you can decide.

Take off the mask and see what happens.

And if you can’t fully do that, begin to incorporate who you really are into your daily life. See what happens.

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.

Carl Jung

Wishing you self-discovery and an authentic life today and every day,

Rachel Ann

For more information on the persona archetype:

http://psikoloji.fisek.com.tr/jung/persona.htm

http://eric.pettifor.org/individuationarchetypes