Understanding Healthy Avoidance
Understanding Healthy Avoidance

 Avoidance of feelings is usually seen as negative but are there times when we are so emotionally flooded by feelings that it’s actually a good thing to temporarily avoid feelings? 

It is part of the human experience to become flooded by feelings and it takes self-awareness to be able to identify what feelings are coming up and whether or not it’s appropriate to allow oneself to feel what you’re feeling in the moment. There are times when “healthy avoidance” makes sense and it’s what’s needed to be able to effectively function and move through the day. A better way to refer to this is having emotional maturity, which is to have self-control to manage your emotions, without reacting to them, and knowing how and when to respond to what you’re feeling.

What are some ways to engage in ‘healthy avoidance’?

Commit to becoming an emotionally mature individual and practice doing so daily. Notice what you’re feeling and pay attention to who or what caused the feeling to come to the surface for you. Work towards seeing your feelings or emotions as energy in motion and practice not creating a narrative to what you’re feeling. Part of our evolution is to be able to see the space between who we are and what we feel. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need to figure out what we’re feeling and that can be helpful for the beginning stages of becoming aware but there is great freedom that comes when you learn you are not defined by feelings and what you feel is simply the body’s way of trying to communicate with you. It could be helpful to ask: “What is my body trying to tell me?” If you can answer this, then that is a great way to see if you need to do something about it; otherwise, if no answer comes to mind, allow yourself to let it be and continue on (that is healthy avoidance).

How do we recognize times when we need to address feelings, and times when we need to avoid emotional flooding?

Knowing when to address feelings and times to avoid emotional flooding is an individual experience and differs for each person based on what is relevant to him/her/them. If a person goes through a traumatic event, experiences a loss in some way, or is faced with challenges, it’s only normal for feelings to occur and it’s important to address those feelings rather than avoid them. However, facing them right away after the event may not be helpful. If you can learn to trust your body and listen to it, it will guide you on when it’s time to address your feelings. For example, when you start to experience headaches, fatigue, gut issues, and/or muscle tension to name a few, this could be your body trying to get your attention to address unresolved feelings that are now manifesting as physical symptoms. On the hand, there are times when you may feel things and there is no rhyme or reason, having the awareness to know what’s important and what’s not, is a great way to be guided on whether or not there’s something for you to address. For example, let’s say you’re running late to work, and now you begin to feel worried about being late and then your worry becomes anxiety, and your anxiety becomes fear that you may get in trouble for being late, that would be an example of avoiding the emotional flooding before your emotions take over. When in doubt, breathe your way through and refocus on the present moment.

Stephanie Robilio, LCSW
Published Author
Chief Clinical Officer at Agape Behavioral Healthcare

To learn more about Stephanie visit www.stephanierobilio.com and follow her on Instagram @stephanierobilio, Facebook @stephanierobilio, and subscribe to her on YouTube Stephanie Robilio. Find all of Stephanie’s books on Amazon: WellNowMindful MakeoverPainted Soul, and Bonafide Spirit. To join real conversations about what it takes to achieve optimal wellness in mind, body, and spirit, check out The Mindful Living Podcast on Spotify.