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

Lighten your load: Letting go

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. – Tao Te Ching

Letting go. It’s a hot topic among therapists, clients, friends, and family. Often times whether it’s on a subconscious or conscious level, there are emotions that we need to let go of in order to move forward and achieve the happiness that we all deserve.

Emotional baggage is a term used to describe the negative emotions that are carried around with us on a daily basis. Negative emotions are often gathered through the years and stuffed into our “mental suitcase” that we carry.

You can always tell a difference between a person that has a heavy “suitcase” with them versus someone who’s suitcase is light. I can always tell in the eyes and the face. When your emotional baggage is heavy, there is no longer a light in your eyes. Perhaps you’ve struggled with an addiction or mental health condition and it has taken over.

When a person becomes so accustomed to carrying around excess negativity, it becomes who you are. Negative emotions have an interesting way of wearing a person down and eventually taking over if you are not careful. People begin to identify with the negative emotions of anger, sadness, and or anxiety and it becomes the very thing that you put out into the world. 

I think back to a time when I was working at an inpatient acute stabilization hospital and a very angry woman came in. I’ll admit that her rage was so thick that even I had to check myself on my own fears of her. I can remember sitting with this woman, in an effort to just let her know that I was supportive and would not run away from her anger and consequently, feeling exhausted afterwards. Anger has a way of sucking the energy out of the room and out of the person who is experiencing it.

So there I sat. And listened with unconditional positive regard to the anger coming from this woman. She had had quite the injustices occur in her life—various events that were completely out of her control. Yet she had persevered and was still here today. I pointed this out just as we were ending our meeting for the day.

The next day, I noticed she seemed calmer. It was almost like the air had gone out of her sails and she was in a different place mentally. She began to talk and amazingly became tearful when she was able to recognize the strong impact of her anger on everyone around her. She made a statement that she had always been an angry person and recognized now that she used anger to keep people away despite feeling desperately lonely and unsupported. The aha! moment had occurred.

To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit. – Jack Kornfield

When we hide behind our negative emotions, there is a reason for doing so. Whether it is keeping other people at arm’s length, trying to appear larger than life, or to elicit sympathy from others—there is always a reason why we behave the way that we do.

The power is when you recognize how and why you use negative emotions and decide to make steps to change.

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. – Raymond Lindquist

Letting go can be scary. However, in order for changes to occur, there has to be a shift in identity and the way that you may be currently living your life. Take inventory of how you interact with others and how you feel about yourself.

If you could describe who you are with 5 words, what would they be?

What do you need to change about yourself in order to be happy and fulfilled?

You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old – whatever “the old” means for you. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Use affirmations to get on track with who you are and what emotions you want to put out to the world. Choose happiness because you are deserving of it. Everyone makes mistakes at one point or another but this does not mean that you have to internalize those negative emotions and allow them to take control.  

Live, learn, and move forward. The only person you can control is yourself. Try letting go of that excess emotional baggage that may be weighing you down. I give you permission 😉

 

Wishing you happiness and a “light suitcase” today and everyday,

 

Rachel Ann