4 Ways to Avoid Avoiding

“Avoidance is paying forward that which I would be much wiser to pay off.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Currently, I am avoiding several “Problems” – which are now starting to create a lot of noise inside me. The endless mental gyrations take energy to think about, they create emotional responses (which I must now squelch) and they use up mental RAM that could be used for something better, more engaging, more useful, more interesting.

The things I avoid will probably not be the things you avoid – or maybe they will be similar – but my point is to illustrate that we all do this. And we could choose to do something different.

Avoidance Exhibit A: I have been putting off going to the dentist for well over a year now. I actually like my dentist – he’s a nice man who is kind and willing to spend time talking with me. I’ve gone to him for over 2 decades, every six months, like clockwork.

What happened?

8 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and did the whole cancer vacation package – 6 months of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation. While I tolerated the treatment well, (and, keep-my-fingers-crossed, am cured) one of the side-effects is that I have developed a heightened sensitivity to putting anything new into my system. I have no issues when they take something out (like blood), but whenever I ingest anything new (a new kind of food) or any form of injection, I have a physical reaction.

I suspect that this is primarily anxiety, however, it is impossible to tell. Perhaps it is in my mind, perhaps my physiology has changed. I am certain my brain chemistry is different, my hormonal balances are different – why not other things as well? The chemistry of my saliva is different, which, unfortunately is destroying my enamel, making it much easier to get cavities.

Each trip to the dentist ends with a bad report and a repeat trip to repair tooth decay, which requires Novocain – something that is injected INTO me. This drug makes my heart race, I get waves of anxiety flowing up and down my body and I have near-panic attacks as I imagine my throat closing and I can’t breathe. It makes it kind of hard to just sit there while he drills away. After about 8 or 9 times of this, something in me snapped and I just quit going. I think about getting some anti-anxiety medication and then I worry about being allergic to that. Lately I’ve been having dreams of all my teeth falling out.

There is a rational side of my brain (my therapist voice) that says, “Look, each time you’ve gone before, it has been uncomfortable, but really, it’s not like anything bad actually happened to you. Get over yourself. Act like an adult. Just go and you’ll be fine. And then you can stop thinking about this all the time.”

Have I called to make an appointment? Not yet.

Avoidance Exhibit B: I have a LARGE family of mice in my barn. I hate killing things. I will catch indoor spiders and take them outside. I generally have a live-and-let-live attitude. Yet I KNOW better with mice. You just can’t do that. Because where you start with two, before you know it, you have twenty. And then 500.

I’m VERY opposed to poison, because a) it is a terribly painful way to die and even though they are mice, I will not intentionally cause suffering in anything; and b) we have cats and hawks and owls around. I don’t want to poison THEM second-hand. So it has to be traps. At the time of this writing, there is much snow and ice, otherwise, I might try live trapping and relocation … (but I digress. This is not actually the point of the post).

It would have been so much better and easier if I had trapped them when there were only a few. Now I have to kill two dozen. And I hate doing it, because they are adorable (and I have to say, as they have been eating high protein laying pellets, they are incredibly healthy). I’ve known this for WEEKS. Last week I bought the traps. Have I put any of them out yet? No.


Why do we avoid doing what we know we ought to do? Especially when it creates so much more stress for ourselves in the long run.

I believe it comes down to short term gains.

It is easier right NOW to do nothing. And so I (we) put off what should be done today for the momentary relief of procrastination. While the adult part of us knows that this problem is not going to go away and, in fact, will only become worse, still, the inner child begs for more time. Sometimes the child wins.

Here are some ideas that sometimes help me:

Enlist help. I pride myself on being able to do anything, but today I broke down and asked my husband to deal with the mice issue. He graciously agreed to do the multiple executions. It is not always possible to delegate the things that you are procrastinating, but sometimes it IS an option.

Tell someone that you will do it and let them hold you accountable. I am part of a Facebook group for writers. We tell each other what we intend to do at the beginning of the week. Sometimes, just the fact that I have told someone I will do something helps me actually do it.

Get more information. Sometimes there are other ways to go about your problem. I intend on scheduling an appointment to have my teeth cleaned, but NOT worked on, no matter what is wrong with them. And, I’m going to ask about alternate forms of anesthesia.

Give yourself a reward for completing the difficult task. I had the large task of setting up a new website. It was daunting because I’m not all that technologically savvy (or at least I was less so before I actually did it)! I promised myself a new pair of earrings that I had been looking at once the site was up and running.

What things have helped you when you are tempted to avoid things? Add to this list. We can all use each other’s wisdom!

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