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M5L3 – Ignorance is bliss. Why can’t I just ignore my feelings? | Dr Jamie Barnier

M5L3 – Ignorance is bliss. Why can’t I just ignore my feelings?

MODULE 5 : Brief Introduction

  • Feeling blockers
  • Avoided situations – worksheet
  • Avoided feelings
  • Facing feelings

 

LESSON 3

I’m sure we’ve all had an experience (or several) we would rather forget. Avoidance of negative emotions is probably the quickest way to push them out of awareness – but not without a price.

Over time, the feeling that was originally avoided can create secondary problems and these problems can become bigger than the feeling that was being avoided in the first place.

Take for example “Billy” who has just broken up with his partner. Understandably, he is shaken and upset about this event. He goes out with some friends on Friday night and then decides to take recreational drugs to numb himself to these feelings. The “buzz” makes him feel euphoric – certainly far better than how he had been feeling beforehand. The next day during the “come down” Billy feels worse than he did before. He figures, “well it’s a Saturday night, I’ll take some more drugs.” If this cycle continues, Billy may be at risk of developing a bigger problem (becoming addicted to drugs) in addition to the unresolved feelings about the break up.

Avoiding his feelings around the break up may also affect his ability to enter into or remain in another satisfying romantic relationship. That is, entering into a new relationship will likely stir up his old repressed feelings. Given that Billy had a tendency to avoid those feelings, he’s at risk of avoiding anything that would stir up those same feelings, like a potential relationship.

Most things in life worth pursuing involve the ability to persevere despite difficult internal states and external circumstances. Avoidance can become suffocating because before long, the list of people, places and things that evoke difficult feelings seems to expand. That is, avoidance is self-growing and at the same time, it seems to rob you of your grit, coping, and ability to truly experience and enjoy life. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy a purposeful and meaningful life

Our attempts at avoiding negative emotions usually leads to a state of being wound up or on edge, constantly afraid of our feelings and any situation or event that can trigger these feelings. Over time, this can lead to more and more things that are avoided in order to avoid the feelings and resulting anxiety. This can explain why some people are afraid to leave their home (agoraphobia). Over time, they have come to avoid (and fear rather than face) more and more situations until finally, the only “safe place” they feel is in their home.

Anticipatory anxiety over a feeling can become suffocating and quite often, much more difficult than experiencing the feeling itself. We are able to imagine things far more devastating than what is often the case in reality. That is, many times, reality contains less extreme scenarios than the unbridled imagination.