I had thought quite a lot before writing the last post on avoidance, but there was little awareness of the magnitude of this self-protecting – self-preserving – tactic that most of us exert in our lives. We can have an uncanny knack of avoiding the fact that we are avoiding.
The situation with ‘The Therapist That Bugged me’ is a classic example. I may well proclaim that “if I don’t feel comfortable, how on earth will I ever open up?” Nevertheless, two or three previous experiences with other Therapists concluded with similar attitudes.
Therefore, in my case, to back out of Therapy because I do not gel with the Therapist is a negative avoidance tactic dressed up as a positive and justifiable one.
While avoidance is said to not be favourable to the stability of our mental health, we almost spontaneously avoid what triggers difficult memories, emotions and experiences. There seems to be positive and negative connotations to avoidant behaviour and my head could run in circles debating the criteria’s.
What I have come to realise over the past few days is that – prior to my first mental breakdown in 2000 – avoidance was also top of my agenda, but for very different reasons. Evidently, it is a constant feature throughout my life.
Back then, it was all about avoiding just how enormously difficult life was. I was “A child living in an adult world”.
Outwardly, I could pretend to be an adult holding down my responsible job, new car, owned property, and my secure and confident persona amongst a network of friends and perfect partner. I would have done anything to make you believe I was balanced, secure, caring and compassionate.
Inwardly, there is a little lost boy, emotionally and psychologically traumatised and still so very immature, who still desperately fights to keep this head above water; trying to make sense and participate in a grown-ups world.
In many ways, having a BPD diagnosis is giving the permission to return to childhood. Go back to the basics and then grow up. Learn the things that “normal” children from “normal” backgrounds do and, in the process, develop a stable and genuine personality. But can I face the pain, the shame and guilt?
To deal with the pain of our experiences, we adopt a number of coping mechanisms and avoidance is just one. Avoidance is all about gaining control. Yes, it is a way to escape the fear and the heartache, but it is also a way of processing and regulating some extremely difficult memories. While avoidant behaviour might be a benign process – even a positive one – it is probably worth us bearing in mind that it can ultimately lead to further psychological damage from intensified problems and associated difficulties.
In many ways, my last 2-3 posts could be a clever avoidance tactic (I am a master of it). If I talk about avoidance (and my pets), I do not need to talk about exactly what I am avoiding.