Loving Your Avoidance
I understand how difficult it can be to face things. There have been times in my life when I have been so embarrassed, ashamed or ridden with guilt about my actions, my behaviors, my decisions, and my characteristics. I have felt that shame not only for things I have done but also for things I have not done, my inaction. What seemed like the easier path to facing myself- was to ignore, evade, look the other way.
There have been so many times when I felt stuck. It was easier for me to assume that I was stuck because I wasn’t doing things I needed to do, taking that action or this action. But really it was shame and fear keeping me stuck. I was scared of taking the next step of looking deeply at myself. I was scared of the pain that was underlying my avoidant behaviors. Looking deeply meant facing the shame- the emotion I had crafted my life around avoiding.
I didn’t feel I had the skills to really face what I needed to face about myself. Face about my decisions. Face about my avoidant tendencies. I felt that I would be overwhelmed with emotions if I stopped and looked inward.
The interesting thing is that I could look deeply at so much but the most painful things about myself and personality were much more difficult. These roots, these core pains represented my shame. And shame is a very very difficult emotion to face.
In order to take a deep inner look at my behaviors, actions, decisions, characteristics, I had to face my shame and guilt.
It’s a loop. A loop of shame. Because shame and guilt were driving my behaviors, and shame was driving my avoidance of truly looking at my behaviors. And unless I addressed the shame, I could not face my avoidance of my behavior or the behavior I was avoiding.
Facing shame is not easy. But it is possible.
Sometimes you need help. I did.
Sometimes that help comes from a trained trauma therapist who has walked the walk and can be with you as you navigate the deeper emotions and origins of shame and avoidance.
Sometimes that help comes in the form of a caring coach who has walked the walk and is intentional about sharing their story so you can know you are not alone in shame, that they too have felt shame.
Sometimes that help comes from a loving friend who refrains from advice-giving and just listens and gives you a hug even if they have never experienced what you have.
Sometimes that help comes from peer-led groups filled with people who have been there, who know what it feels like and can relate.
Sharing shame with another person can be scary but it can also be liberating.
There is an incredible amount of healing and emotional movement that occurs when we are listened to deeply and with tenderness and compassion.
In this way, we begin to witness what it is to be with the hurting parts within us, the one’s who feel shame and who are scared of looking deeply.
We begin to witness what it is to listen deeply to our hurting parts.
To offer tenderness and compassion to those parts.
Sometimes we need to witness this so that we can see how it’s done.
For some of us, experiencing these moments with another human being may be the first time we ever experience tender compassion.
Modeling is such an important way that we learn. Seeing it, experiencing it, practicing it.
So that we can begin to give this to ourselves. Tender compassion, deep listening, being with self.
But these are difficult to offer to ourselves when we are in the shame loop.
We don’t want to be with ourselves. Being with ourselves, truly showing up for ourselves can be scary for so many reasons. We may feel being with ourselves feels selfish – so it reinforces our shame. We may feel spending time with ourselves is the last thing in the world we want to do because we don’t even like ourselves, and time alone may feel threatening in some way.
Spending time with ourselves and listening to the painful parts of us- giving voice to fears, beliefs, emotions. We may feel being still with ourselves and tending to our emotions can be overwhelming. We may feel we don’t have the skills to look inward and not succumb to believing what our painful parts are saying about ourselves. We may feel we don’t have the skills to look inward- with objectivity and equanimity.
And Tender Compassion may feel like a reward when really what we want to do is the opposite. We may want to be negative to ourselves, talk harshly toward ourselves, and give ourselves painful words or deprivation because that is what we feel we deserve.
Looking deeply at the reasons why we avoid and what underlies our shame is so important if we are to break the shame loop.
If we practice, practice being with ourselves, deeply listening to ourselves, and offering ourselves tender compassion, it will become easier.
There is no timeline for healing, but practicing and noticing are key.
When you are hurting inside, avoiding on the outside -notice your flags and be radically honest with yourself that you are in a shame loop.
When you notice, stop what you are doing and tend to the part of you who is scared, ashamed, hurting. Show up for yourself. Connect with yourself. Do not turn your back on yourself in those moments. You are in need, just like a dear friend. You are that dear friend that needs you.
Listen deeply to those scared hurting parts. What are they saying? Listen past the hurtful words and negative self-talk (a form of evasion and avoidance- because it takes the focus away from the root pain and focuses on the criticism or the behavior of mental picking), look deeply at the roots and core message of the pain behind the negative self-talk. For example the hurting part may say “You’re so lazy.” But if you were to look past this surface level message and get to the root of the pain, your hurting part may actually be saying “I’m afraid that you taking a break, taking a rest, will put you in a situation where you can’t get everything done. And if you don’t get everything done, I’m afraid you will fail, and if you fail, I’m afraid people will be upset with you, and if people are upset with you, I’m afraid you will be all alone, and if you’re all alone, I’m afraid you will become very depressed, and if you are very depressed, I’m afraid you will …”
The voice of shame is the voice of fear. It has a lot to say about our deeper fears and what we are avoiding and what we are repressing. But it is just that- a voice. One voice. It is a voice, a part of yourself that is in pain and is afraid. We all say things that we don’t really mean when we are in pain, when we are afraid. It is the same with this voice.
You can listen deeply without believing what this voice, this part, has to say.
And even when not believing what this voice has to say, listening deeply can be coupled with tenderness and compassion.
Dear Voice, Dear Hurting Scared Part of Me,
I hear you. I understand deeply why you are scared. Why you are hurting. I understand why you use harsh words with me to get me to listen to you. I understand your fear. I understand your deeper fear. I understand the origins and roots of this fear. I am here and you are safe. You are safe. We will be ok. I am here. I am not going anywhere. You are not alone. I will promise to listen to you when you are scared or hurting. I will promise to show up for you when you need me. I am here. This is me comforting you.
Tender compassion toward self is one of the single most transmuting experience when shame (in the form of avoidance) has shown up.
You deserve tenderness. You deserve compassion. You deserve loving-kindness.
You deserve to connect with yourself. You deserve to be listened to deeply.
You deserve to be free, to live free.
Liberated from the shame cycle. Not through surface level avoidance but through a very real turning inward. A coming home to self.
Has this article helped you in some way? Do you have anything you'd like to share? I’d love to hear below.
Dear Wonderful Person,
I hope this message helps support you on your path of personal liberation, connection, and peace-filled compassion. Need more guidance on this topic or looking for a coach to partner with you on this part of your journey? Check out my private coaching programs.
Wishing you much peace and joy,
Customized. Personalized. Just for You.
Looking for a personable, heart-felt, caring coach to partner with you and help you achieve your personal and professional goals?
Rebecca's transformational whole-person coaching has helped her partners build confidence, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and connect authentically with themselves and others. She has partnered with executives, managers, and teams for over 15 years offering private coaching as well as Workshops in Public Speaking, and Worksite Wellness Classes in Stress-reduction, Work/Life Balance, and Time-management.
Over 15 years as an Executive Coach and Trainer for leaders in Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, Top-tier Universities, Government, NGOs, Small Businesses helping leaders and their teams achieve superior results
Results: Strengthened relationships and communication, Increased confidence and happiness, Reduced stress, Improved quality of life and employee wellness, Enhanced performance, Increased job satisfaction
1500+ hours of formal training and certifications in stress-reduction, mindfulness, and communication strategies
Certified Master Coach
MPA in Managerial Leadership, graduated with honors
BA with a concentration in Speech Communication, Magna Cum Laude
Named Top 16 Coaches in Raleigh for 2022 by Influence Digest