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      On avoidance.

      avoidance | kourtney thomas choice discovery

      There’s a section of every workshop and coaching engagement I do where I talk about taking control of your choices. And when I get to the part about defaulting, I usually see eyes dart around, heads bow down in reflection. Then, when I ask, “Where are you choosing by not choosing?” I hear a ripple of sharp intakes or exhalations of breath.

      Because it only takes the space of those few seconds to realize exactly what you’ve been avoiding in life.

      Sometimes it’s something big that you are acutely aware of. Sometimes, it’s smaller and more elusive over time. Either way, it’s destructive.

      And what’s funny is, as humans, we tend to shy away from destruction, right? We’re inclined to do things that feel good and avoid things that feel bad. The challenge comes in when there’s trouble in deciding and dealing with a key question: who feels bad?

      I often find that the women I work with are avoiding certain situations or confrontations in their lives not because they don’t know what they want, or they’re not sure it will make them happier or more fulfilled – but because it might (key word: might) make someone else feel bad. And as women, we are typically socialized to put everyone else’s feelings above our own at all costs – namely the costs to our own feelings. We shove down the bad and ensure there’s no damage to anyone else, while it wreaks devastation inside of us.

      As you may have guessed, I’m not real big on this approach.

      So, in my usual way, I poke and prod at it. Awareness is key, and that’s the foremost part of a new approach. If I ask you where you have been defaulting in your life, avoiding making decisions, skirting issues, what comes up? I bet there is at least one thing that pops into your head, heart, or gut immediately. And once you’re aware of it, things shift, almost immediately.

      Examples I often use: confronting a partner or family member, ending a friendship, quitting school, pursuing a non-traditional passion, turning down a job offer, and even down to speaking up to the asshole sexist or racist coworker or cousin who will not stop telling inappropriate jokes.

      Again, sometimes big, sometimes smaller, but always with an influence, an effect on how we’re living.

      The next part of it is typically me asking why? Why are you avoiding? How did you get here? More specifically, depending on the instance, are you taking on the burden of other people’s reactions to your choices and behaviors? Or assuming them? Or, how about sidestepping feeling your own feelings and reactions? Is there a fear here? Are you following societal “rules” at the expense of your happiness or mental health or fulfillment?

      And that’s definitely the hard part, because, more often than not, the answer involves uncomfortable self-reflection. It involves important interpersonal relationships. Histories. Belief systems. Sometimes livelihoods. Many times conditioning and external expectations. Always feelings. Oh so many feelings.

      And again, in generally avoiding that which feels bad, we avoid making ourselves do this work. We avoid the squishy bits of examining self and life. We make all the excuses in the world that everything is fine and self-help and finding yourself is stupid and indulgent.

      Oh yeah?

      Close your eyes for a minute and visualize for me. Focus on one of these things you have been avoiding dealing with in your life. Think about how you think about it either all the time or even every so often. Consider the outcomes that might come to pass should you confront the person or situation head-on tomorrow. Contemplate how you would feel the following day. Now, open your eyes and write down those feelings.

      Does it look something like freedom? Relief? Excited? Happy?

      Tell me again that this work is silly. Because do you want those things? To feel that way?

      Is the choosing by not choosing, the defaulting, the avoidance worth it?

      Only you know that answer. It may be. Or it may be, for a while. But it’s important that you have some awareness around it, because this is your life. And these are important things that are affecting the way you’re living it. Standing in the way of how you want to live it.

      You can create those feelings for yourself. But you can’t avoid the fact that it will take conscious choice and change. And that doesn’t mean simple or easy or an overnight sensation. But it does likely mean a lot more openness, truth, and alignment. And those are all things I know I’m running straight for.


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