The Fine Line Between Distraction and Avoidance

Got something bugging you? Have feelings that you have the tendency to simply push away? Have an issue you refuse to do anything about?

I often remark to clients that there is a fine line between distraction and avoidance, and only one is good for you. The difference lies in two variables: acknowledgement and action.

When we avoid something that we need to address, or ignore the way we are feeling, we skip over acknowledgement and there is no room for plan, direction or resolution. Quick to dismiss it or ‘let it go,’ we have actually not released it at all for we did not process it; instead it gets pushed down into the core of our being, only to come bubbling back up again. When we move to distraction as a coping strategy, we have acknowledged the feeling or issue, but are not able to resolve it right away – hence moving to something that helps us to cope.

When we avoid, we are allowing fear to lead. When we acknowledge, we lead with courage. Sometimes all that is required is an acceptance of how we are feeling. Allow the feeling to come, remind yourself that it is okay to feel that way and if it comes with a resolvable action, move in that direction. If you can’t act on it for whatever reason, that is when we move to distraction. We find ways to cope (taking some deep breaths, going for a walk, putting on some soothing music), that will allow us to make room for our feelings without completely succumbing to the action urges that tend to accompany.

An example: Waking up feeling crummy, unmotivated, blah, blue. If we ignore these feelings, or fail to acknowledge that we feel this way because we are anxious, depressed, disengaged or grieving, we may follow their lead and stay in bed all day. We have ignored the issue.

Waking up feeling crummy, unmotivated, blah, blue. Deep breath: “I feel so crummy today. There is a part of me that doesn’t feel like getting out of bed. I feel sad. I feel anxious. I know this is a process; I know that I don’t want to leave my bed because of my current circumstances. But right now, those are not in my control; I can only choose what is.” Spending a few minutes in prayer, starting the day writing in a gratitude journal, making ourselves a healthy breakfast. We have moved to distraction.

There is a fine line between avoidance and distraction – and only one is good for you 🙂

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