Today’s stren considers the third of the eight choices available to our will power to transform information into action. I have labeled it the Avoidance response because it has its origin in the primitive flight part of our fight or flight instinct.
The Avoidance mental action pathway is so powerful because it has been hardwired into our biology throughout our history. This primitive automatic innate “flight” pathway is our emergency action to run or hide from life threatening danger. In animals, it is a favored means of survival! For example, it has been shown that some species instinctively distinguish the distant shape of a predator bird from that of a safe silhouette, automatically releasing “red alert” chemicals that signal the need to run. In our (relatively) civilized society, physically running away is seldom effective. First, modern technology makes it easy to find people. Second, physical life-threatening stress is uncommon. Most people constantly face symbolic danger and “pink alert” chronic psychological stress. Thus, we learn to substitute mental means of avoidance for physical ways to “run away.” (Running away to escape a mugger is actually a problem-solving response, rather than avoidance!)
Our intelligent mind creates ingenious alternative ways to avoid discomfort. Most preserve short-term pleasure at the cost of a longer-term harmful outcome. Present feelings are often innately more powerful than objective reason. Reason lacks the force of emotion unless we teach ourselves the endorsement skills that link emotion to the intelligent action choice. The avoidance mental response pattern is discouraged because the longer-term (and sometimes the shorter-term) outcome no longer works and often is dangerous.
Here are some readily observed avoidance patterns our mind substitutes for physically running:
procrastination: finding another activity to escape an unpleasant task
“socially running”: changing jobs, spouses, friends, residences, and so on
substance abuse: inappropriate use of alcohol, drugs, and food
telling lies: “It was my brother who did it.”
withdrawal: isolating oneself physically and/or emotionally
self-deception: the mind is so effective, deception is accepted as truth. For example:
denial – “I can stop drinking whenever I choose.”
rationalization – Excuses believed by the individual but no one else. “The
traffic makes me late.” “It’s because my biorhythms are off.”
paranoia – projecting our uncomfortable ideas/feelings on another.
“They don’t like me because I have pimples.”
substitution/displacement – Angry with his boss, he kicks the dog.
regression – We revert to an inappropriate pattern that previously worked.
A four year old wets himself when a new sibling gets more attention.
physical and/or psychological “illness” – Feigned or exaggerated physical and/or
mental illness may excuse one from facing a stressful reality. Becoming
Napoleon or some other powerful person is more satisfying than being “a nobody.”
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