Experiential Avoidance

CoolumwavedsI’ve tasted the pungent tang of stress, and I can tell you, I’m not a fan. It’s not like biting into a lemon where the excruciating flavour eventually fades. No, it fucking lingers in the form of sharp heart palpitations and nausea. Humans have two reactions to fear, some of us face them, and others run. Can quite safely say that I fall into the flight camp.

But lately, I’ve tried to live a little more freely. You know, like the stress less, flower power side of life. My justification being that if I cared less, maybe then some of the fears I felt so intensely about would evaporate. But the reality is, anxiety isn’t something you can suppress, it has to be dealt with. So I was pointed in the direction of Dr Russ Harris, the author of the Happiness Trap. Not going lie, I don’t generally take that psychologist jargon with a grain of salt, but something stood out. A concept called ‘Experiential Avoidance.’ This theory suggests that many of us perform unhealthy efforts in order to escape, or avoid particular emotions, thoughts and memories.

The truth is I haven’t been in a relationship for the better part of three years. Which, looking back is actually insane. But for me, where most people seem to find support and a place to grow, feels like a death trap. As a result of one bad experience, I have avoided anything to do with love, or dating, because the messiness of it all just doesn’t seem worth it. But here I am three years later – loveless, crush-less and bored.

Avoidance prohibits you from experiencing a spectrum of enriching things, and I’m not just talking about love here. You might have tried watermelon ten years ago and hated it. Things changed and your tastebuds matured, but because you hated them then, you assume you still will. This was another phobia I carried around for a while, but now it’s my favourite fruit. Blah, I hope you get my point.

Basically, emotions and anxieties have a tendency to get in the way. But, I’m sick of it. There are so many options that I’m scared of exploring that have the potential to be life changing. Moving away, maybe overseas. Travelling endlessly and tirelessly. Buying a house. Working my dream job as opposed to the one that will pay the most. Time to change experiential avoidance into actual experiences in 2016.

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