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Avoidance Strategy: How To Regain Control

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Avoidance Strategy Definition: What is it?

We understand a strategy to be a long-term approach. If we are talking about an avoidance strategy, the aim is to specifically avoid something unpleasant. In psychology, avoidance behavior is primarily used when certain situations or actions are avoided that are perceived as potentially dangerous and that are announced by internal or external cues.

Some people tend to in a kind of anticipatory obedience to think far in advance and thus protect yourself. All of life is then oriented towards avoiding certain situations for fear of failure or of being criticized. At the same time, this behavior leads to major restrictions: Anyone who is extremely afraid of speaking in front of people will probably never be able to achieve a management position because they are unable to represent the company externally and, for example, to inform several people about decisions. He will be very insecure of himself and instead always stay in the background, even if he is intellectually capable of other achievements.

In addition to the self-imposed restrictions, such avoidance strategies prevent someone from having new experiences, namely that they can cope with terrifying situations. To a particularly strong extent, an avoidance strategy can also be a component of personality disorders or social phobia.

Often times, situations experienced as threatening, such as a presentation or an examination, are accompanied by a series of physical symptoms, for example sweating or diarrhea up to downright panic attacks. The avoidance strategy eliminates the fear of threatening situations.

Different areas of avoidance strategies

An avoidance strategy does not have to be part of pathological avoidance behavior. Avoidance strategies appear, for example, in very everyday areas:

  • Conflicts

    There is no one - except perhaps extremely contentious people - who particularly appreciates arguments. At the same time, however, it is difficult to avoid them, the people and needs are too different, and in some cases the communication is too ambiguous. However, even if there are no manifest fears behind an avoidance strategy, it is rarely a good choice: If it is chosen when there are conflicts with other people, it is only a matter of time before they break out. The cause is not removed, the conflict smolder and can ignite from a little something. In addition, it is very unsatisfactory because none of the conflicting parties was able to assert their interests.

  • job

    Procrastination is also an avoidance strategy, and quite a few students struggle with it. Behind this is a great fear of failure, which in turn is often linked to perfectionism: The housework cannot be written because you have not yet gathered all the information that exists on this topic. So before something is written that may not meet your own requirements, you don't even start. The more extreme forms are students who are afraid of the real world of work - often due to a lack of in-depth study of what might come after their studies. So instead of aiming for a degree, one attends seminar after seminar, aiming for a doctorate.

  • Self-actualization

    But employees who have long since entered the world of work also use avoidance strategies. For example, if you have been thinking about starting your own business for a long time. But the security mindset keeps you from doing it, after all, you might fail. Or you imagine how beautiful something could be, but you just don't tackle it, you lack the discipline to organize yourself and the volition.

  • negotiations

    When negotiating, the question arises to what extent the negotiating partners have a relationship with one another, whether it is positive or negative, and whether a future relationship is desired. For example, if you want to buy a new television set, you will usually not have a particularly close relationship with the seller, but will only want to negotiate a good price. It may look different with salary negotiations. Here we will want to continue working together in the future, so that mutual compromises are conceivable. In other negotiations, such as with business partners or banks, the avoidance strategy can be used if you are sure that a scheduled appointment would not lead to any result. This route is also chosen if the business partner is to be delayed.

Advantages and disadvantages of avoidance strategies

It is absolutely normal that we want to protect ourselves from harm and both negative feedback - if it is not constructive criticism - and failure in itself are not particularly pleasant.

Avoidance strategies have a protective function

Seen in this way, the avoidance strategy offers advantages:

  • You don't have negative experiences.
  • You avoid the stress and uncomfortable feelings caused by this.

Avoidance behavior hinders progress

Unfortunately, the disadvantages of this behavior outweigh by far:

  • Developing avoidance strategies is energy-consuming and exhausting, so that your quality of life suffers.
  • Due to the fear that you have developed, you avoid situations that are not at all risky for you without review and thereby limit yourself unnecessarily.
  • By also avoiding situations that would most likely have been safe for you, you are also preventing personal growth.
  • They prevent learning new coping strategies. To experience that you can survive = master a situation would help to strengthen your self-confidence.
  • Usually anxious people transfer their fear to other, similar situations, so that there are more and more and the restrictions increase with it.
  • The more fears you develop as a result of avoidance behaviors, the worse you will be. One avoidance strategy is alcohol or the development of addiction problems and / or depression.

Overcoming avoidance behavior through action

If you consider the clearly predominant disadvantages, it should be clear that something needs to be done about it. Some people believe that they simply don't have enough self-motivation and so avoid certain things.

It's easier tooTo cram some food into yourself, to sit on the sofa and simply not have awkward conversations, than to think about what to buy, get your bum off the sofa and think about how to deal with a situation.

Anyone who tends towards avoidance strategies should be aware that it is up to them to decide. Often the avoidance behavior goes hand in hand with a victim attitude and learned helplessness. That certainly doesn't make it easier to switch from passive behavior to active action.

Still, it is your decision whether you accept the challenge and solve problems or whether you want to keep burying your head in the sand. Depending on how often avoidance strategies are used and how severe the restrictions are, there are appropriate options for action. Ultimately, it is about regaining control over your own life and not making yourself dependent on external events. You have two options.

  • You are doing psychotherapy

    As part of behavior therapy, you can do exposure therapy, which means that you are confronted in a targeted manner with situations that typically trigger fear in you. This is useful if you suffer from severe anxiety and / or are depressed and addicted to drugs. The chances of success are very high depending on the type of problem and are between 75 and 95 percent. You will learn to observe and endure your own reactions. As in an exam, you notice that the fear subsides as soon as you enter the respective situation and do not flee. This allows a habituation effect to set in, which helps to reduce anxiety.

  • You are your own therapist

    If you suffer from claustrophobia, but also from social fears, for example the fear of being judged by other people, you can give up your avoidance strategy by confronting yourself with your fears. The prerequisite for this is that you do not suffer from excessive physical symptoms - if you suffer from panic attacks, for example, you should get professional help. Anyone who wants to face fear-inducing situations on their own can do so by first creating a list of such situations and sorting them hierarchically. Start with the simplest situation, then work your way up bit by bit like a to-do list. You should also leave out supposed lifeguards such as alcohol or tranquilizers. Even if your fear will set in at the beginning, it will decrease after a few minutes and the body will get used to the situation.

    Perhaps you keep a success journal in which you write down the situations you have mastered; You can also write down how you felt in each moment, what thoughts you had. Looking back, this diary will be a nice reinforcement for your approach.

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