The following is an unedited transcript for Season 1, Episode 8 of my podcast, Written, Spoken, provided to help all of my readers and listeners — especially those with hearing disabilities or for whom English is not a primary language — access and enjoy the content of each and every episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or other platforms here.
Is it Avoidance or Something Else? How to Know
[00:00:02] Hey there. This is Dave Ursillo. I’m your host. Welcome back to Written, Spoken. There are only three episodes left of season one. I really appreciate you listening to this little experiment. I’ve been so happy to know that you’re enjoying what you’re hearing. So thanks for your comments and your views and your five star ratings, it means a lot.
[00:00:23] In Episode 4, for I told you about a letter that I had been avoiding for probably upwards of 10 years. It was a letter of recommendation for a painless medical test that thankfully I can afford, it was really easy, and it only took about 20 minutes.
[00:00:37] In that episode, I not only shared how I felt about avoiding this recommended test and why it took me so long to get it done in the first place, I shared some research that I’ve done in recent years to examine what modern researchers, clinical psychologists, and even ancient philosophers have thought about why human beings avoid what we avoid. In this episode, we’re following up with a simple four-part series of questions that I ask myself and ask my clients and students to ask themselves when we broach the subject of avoidance. So let’s dive in. Here we go.
[00:01:15] Dear friend. Not long ago I wrote to you about a letter that I have been avoiding for years. The message of the story was to say that despite my being a so-called teacher of avoidance, I deal with avoiding uncomfortable situations, of course, just as much as anyone else. Truly there is nothing more common, routine, and human than avoiding discomfort, uncertainty, or the potential for bad news. While that may not exactly sound like the most uplifting or a ringing of endorsements for the human condition — that is to say, “We’re all destined to avoid everything that’s unpleasant and there’s nothing we can do about it, have a terrific day! — the very reason that I teach about avoidance as a concept is because it is a particularly powerful gateway into changing not only our lives for the better but our world for the better too.
[00:02:07] And yet what it means to “learn from what we’re avoiding the most” is not as simple as coming up with a long list of things that we can say we’ve been avoiding. Because if we all sat back and thought about it we could each come up with a long long list of things that we could say we have been avoiding. Like my doctor’s visit or green peas and tarantulas, also skydiving accidents, maybe for some of us gluten, and definitely that person at the coffee shop who just seems a little too eager to tell you his whole life story after you accidentally make eye contact and just politely smile. You know what I’m talking about.
[00:02:49] It’d be far too easy and perhaps irresponsibly misleading to tell you that learning from what we’re avoiding is a journey of facing everything that we’ve ever been avoiding posthaste. As humans we don’t just avoid things that we could stand to learn from or benefit from. We also naturally avoid unpleasant experiences in unsafe situations and uncomfortable encounters. We avoid based on matters of personal taste and individual preference too. In other words just because you’re not doing, not facing, or not confronting something, does not mean that you’re necessarily avoiding it.
[00:03:34] Not everything that we avoid means that there’s something inherently soul expanding to learn from by unavoiding it — especially if you ask me when it comes to green peas. Bleh.
[00:03:48] So if you’ve been contemplating what you’ve been avoiding lately and wondering as I did with the letter that I had been avoiding in Episode 4 it may be time to face what is making you feel held back. There are a few questions that I want to offer that may help. The following four questions are the ones I ask myself when I consider if I’m avoiding something in the ways that make me feel like they hold me back from what I desire or what feels like personal growth is waiting. So keep listening and tell me if these questions help you sort through your own relationship to avoid avoidance by leaving a comment to the show or by emailing me at hello at DaveUrsillo.com. All right. Here’s question 1.
[00:04:32] Question number one. Am I aware that I’m avoiding this? This one may sound obvious but when we talk about avoiding something we can only really avoid it if we know that we’re avoiding it. What that means in real terms is this. Facing what you’re avoiding is a personal matter that belongs to you. You can’t be forced taught or instructed to face something that you’re avoiding. If you don’t agree that you’re actually avoiding it. Here’s an example.
[00:05:05] One of my Writer’s Group of Two clients whom I’ll call Violet signed up for coaching together in January because she was aware that she was actively avoiding her desire to write her first book. To face that avoidance she enlisted my support and guidance as her peer and creative partner. Here’s a non-starter: if I bumped into you on the street and said, “Hey you look like you’re avoiding your writing. You should probably stop doing that. You want to buy my course?” Your response would be, “Uh, I’m avoiding my what?”.
[00:05:35] You really can’t be taught are told or instructed or convinced to avoid something unless you fundamentally know and are aware of the fact that you feel that you’re avoiding it. What that means is avoidance is a private and a personal matter. It’s a matter for your own self awareness. Which leads us to the next question.
[00:05:59] Question Number Two. “Am I at choice in avoiding this?” Hand-in-hand with being aware of what you’re avoiding is recognizing that avoidance is a matter of choice even if that choice maybe feels like an unchoice, an anti-choice, a choice against the direction of that which you’re avoiding. In my earlier example my client Violet was not only aware that she was avoiding writing her first book she also recognized that avoiding her first book was in essence making a choice in the direction of her first book. Sure it was a backwards choice. Avoiding something you care about kind of feels like you’re making a roundabout, indirect, inside out unchoice, if you will, in the direction of something that you want but can’t seem to get yourself to fully choose consciously, directly, and deliberately.
[00:06:52] But even a backwards choice is still a choice. Violet’s avoidance was actually illuminating a deep desire to write that book. The avoidance she felt was like a pile of emotional discomfort that was stacking up to cover her desire — her good intention — something that she genuinely wanted. The pile of junk actually indicated where the treasure was buried. Here is a non-starter though. Let’s say that you are still in the process of healing from a tough heartbreak and your patently not on any let’s say dating apps. The idea of being set up on a blind date next weekend or something sends you into a bit of a blind rage. Does that mean you’re avoiding relationships or dating or partnerships or even love? No. Not even.
[00:07:40] Remember, not doing something does not mean that you’re avoiding it. In this case your choice is a positive one, it’s a constructive one, in the direction of healing, space, processing time, and so on. So as long as your choice is true and integrated and honest you can choose to not do something or not face something especially in matters like those of healing or requiring more time and processing or just simply desiring space. If you can’t honestly say that you’re at choice in the avoiding of something it’s probably more likely that you’re just not wanting it or not ready for it in which case maybe it’ll come. Maybe it won’t, but that’s why choice is so important in facing what you’re avoiding.
[00:08:31] Question number three. “Do I feel the discomfort of my avoidance often? All the time? Constantly? How about right now?”
[00:08:45] Are you constantly under pressure because you’re avoiding something? Do you feel like it’s actually becoming more work to continue to avoid it than to face it? If you’re feeling ongoing stress or anxiety or emotional discomfort from avoiding something again that you’re aware of from something that you’re choosing it is likely to be taking a toll on your mental health, or emotional wellness, your personal energy, your physical well-being, and beyond. Although avoidance often operates in the background of our psyches most of the time whether it’s subconscious or unconscious however you want to call it even passively avoiding something like a difficult conversation that we know we need to have or making a difficult decision that we know we need to “make” acts as a drain on our energy our attention and our well-being. Think of it as an energy leak. Some back-channel processing that’s always going on whether or not we’re fully conscious of it in the front thoughts of our mind.
[00:09:46] That is to say that avoidance consumes space in our minds. Avoidance has the sneaky way of eating away at our peace and our presence since some part of our minds is still aware of what we’re avoiding and continuing to choose to maintain that avoidance it takes work to avoid something for a long time. So is it worth it? Does maintaining the avoidance feel like more work than facing it? How often are you feeling this discomfort? How often are you feeling this anxiety? Is it something that’s weighing on you every single day? Are you afraid that what you’re avoiding is gonna pop up and surprise you day in and day out? Do you dream about it at night? This is the kind of stuff that really needs facing because what it says to me is that you’re avoidance is actually inhibiting your wellness your well-being, your physical energy, your capacity to do more of the things that you really want to do. And frankly the things that you deserve to feel. So if you feel like what you’re avoiding is starting to require too much of you it may be true that facing it actually could feel like a path of least resistance. That’s question number three.
[00:10:58] Question number four. “Does avoiding this feel like it is holding me back?” So. This final question, you might say, holding me back from what? Does what you’re avoiding feel like it’s holding you back from healing? Does it make you feel like it’s holding you back from growth? From expansion? From wholeness? From feeling unapologetically you? Does what you’re avoiding feel like it’s preventing you from feeling fully embodied? From becoming more fully expressed?
[00:11:40] It’s this fourth and final question that is the kicker my friend. When we acknowledge that that which we are avoiding — again something that we are (a) aware of (b) choosing and (c) feeling all the time then feels (d) like it is holding us back from our truth, from wholeness, from healing, from wellness, from being our true and best selves — I believe it then has to be confronted. So long as you feel ready to face it. So long as you acknowledge that you are ready to embrace it as your learning curriculum.
[00:12:23] Because you can say honestly that it feels like it is what your soul wants from you because it may be the key to the door of expansion and growth and becoming more of your whole and true self that you truly deserve to be. Yes it can feel tempting to think that not doing not facing or not pursuing something means that you’re necessarily avoiding it. Think of our self-help culture constantly Feeling inundated by more tasks and habits. And list posts about things that productive people do before 6:00 a.m. This is not necessarily the way to your sense of wholeness and Healing and Wellness and growth.
[00:13:04] Remember just because you’re not doing something doesn’t mean you’re avoiding it. There are some experiences we just don’t want to have some goals that are excellent pursuits for others but not necessarily for ourselves.
[00:13:17] Some parts of learning and growth that will feel extraordinarily challenging are completely life-affirming to someone you know may feel like a relative breeze for us. Avoidance as I understand it is a way to explore the ways in which we feel we may be held back, regressed, stuck, anxious, stressed, restricted, or altogether unexpressed as souls.
[00:13:48] So if asking yourself these four questions leads you to the place where you can say yes I can safely conclude now that I’m avoiding something that doesn’t make me feel stuck or held back then it may be time to unavoid it. What I know is this. Despite it being hard-wired into us as human beings to avoid discomfort avoidance can function as a gateway for understanding what makes us feel held back from fully healing. Growing or expanding into our truth. That is precisely why I believe avoidance is not only a good thing but why avoidance exists at all. To help us expand into our fullest expressions as souls. Ever yours in unavoiding, Dave.
[00:14:51] That’s this week’s episode. Thank you so much for listening. If you’re enjoying Written, Spoken, I’d love to know why. What have you enjoyed? What would you like to hear more of? Less of? Email me. My email address is Hello@DaveUrsillo.com. Give me your notes to help me improve future episodes.
[00:15:11] And if you listened last week you know that I’m running a nice little promotion at UnavoidableWriting.com, which is the home to all of my teachings and musings on creative self-expression. If you enjoyed this episode, you’ll probably like my writing course, Unavoidable Writing. There’s only a week left to save up to $300 on that premium e-course. It contains over 30 lessons, a dozen creative exercises, and more than 25 mindful writing prompts all in the seamless system to help you avoid your writing. It’s all yours for just $179 during this otherwise on advertised second beta launch or a re-beta as I’m calling it, after spending the last 18 months, as I have, retesting core materials, exercises and prompts, and launching a completely new course design and an all-new learning portal website.
[00:16:01] So head on over to UnavoidableWriting.com/rebeta. That’s UnavoidableWriting.com/rebeta. There’s only one week left to sign up and save, and you get the full course instantly, 24/7 access, and free updates included for life. Again that’s UnavoidableWriting.com/rebeta.
[00:16:31] Next week, I have an all new episode for you that includes a story from 7th grade and the first time that I learned how the nature of all language is fluid, not static. If you happen to find yourself getting triggered by people’s talk of the so-called political correctness phenomenon, especially these days, you should listen to this episode. It may help give you the words that you’ve been looking forward to reinforce your perspective that words labels and titles need to change as society changes.
[00:17:01] That and more next week. Until then I’m Dave Ursillo, and this as always is Written, Spoken. Bye for now.