When avoidance strengthens fear, dive in!

I have a theory.  It’s been building itself at night, strolling through my sleeping mind, creating pathways that I don’t see until my fingers touch the keyboard and the words appear.

It’s a theory about pain and fear, and our human aversion to both. It’s a theory I know on a deep level, one I enact upon often, even when I know the outcome doesn’t serve me well.

The forming of this theory stems from the fall I had a few weeks ago. One of the hardest hit casualties is my left shoulder and arm. Since the fall, it has not worked well. In fact, because of the pain in it, I avoid using it and am now in that vicious cycle of ‘it hurts to move it so I don’t use it. I don’t use it so it hurts to move it.’

You got it. I am a contributing architect of my own pain.

Now, the theory that has been wandering my neural pathways is about avoidance. I’ve stated it often, ‘avoidance strengthens fear’. Not only is there the physical sense of relief in avoiding doing something we don’t want to, there’s also a physiological/biological corresponding response — everytime you avoid doing something because of fear, there’s a momentary relief that says, ‘ooohhh. That felt good to avoid.’ Next time you go to do it the brain says, “Remember how good it felt to not do that last time? Want to feel that relief again? Then don’t do it.”

In your avoidance you receive a dollop of serotonin, the avoidance increases, as does your fear of doing whatever it is you’re avoiding.

So… back to my theory.

My theory is based on something I believe to be true for the majority of we human beings. We all have places within our psyches/bodies where we carry old angers, pains and fears. Those things that happened in the past that we kind of, but didn’t really, resolve because we didn’t know how and decided to,

  • push our feelings down and not speak up
  • lash out and then pretend everything’s okay
  • say nothing until the ‘right moment’ appeared to get payback – only the right moment never quite appeared

Ultimately, whatever our choice, the anger, pain and fear got buried. Sometimes, we’d see it, or ‘feel’ it as it expressed itself in some unproductive way, and we’d think, ‘oohh, there’s an interesting response to that situation’, but rather than stop to explore our response, we chose to carry on.

In my theory, our lack of exploring our responses is based on the belief that if we stop to explore them, we’ll discover they say things about us we don’t really want to know. That somehow, we will be exposed in the megawatt klieg light glare of introspection as being really bad people.

Remember, avoidance strengthens fear.

The longer we avoid taking that deep dive into our motivations and responses, unravelling the angers, pains and fears of the past, the more we avoid finding the truth about ourselves is not ‘all bad’. It’s just got pockets of our making not so healthy choices in how we responded to situations that were triggered by our unresolved memories of times in the past when we were hurt, shamed, blamed and felt not good enough. In the present, unable to overcome our desire to avoid deep-diving into our fear we’re ‘bad to the core’, we act out from this moment unaware that this moment is actually just a repetition of many past moments.

I went for an ultrasound on my shoulder last week. The socket is inflamed. I have been advised to go for a ‘shot’ in the joint to bring the inflammation down.

I’ve been avoiding making the appointment.

I remember a time when I was around 8 or 9 years old when I was given a needle and fainted.

My father told me I was faking it. To stop being a baby.

I didn’t like being told I was faking it, or that I was acting like a baby but it was not okay to argue with my father.

Is it possible I’ve been avoiding addressing my anger that I didn’t get the attention I deserved as a child and my fear that maybe, just maybe, I really am a baby, that I do fake it? Because somewhere buried deep in my psyche is a fear that says, ‘you don’t deserve to seek help because help means you’re a baby and anyway, you’re just an imposter and nobody really wants to help you.”  Or something like that.

Time to step into my fear and explore my responses.

Time to book my appointment.

Could it be that simple?


If you are interested in exploring all your are and can be in this world in a safe, loving and caring environment, check out Choices Seminars.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received was the opportunity to spend time delving into myself in the Choices room, and then to spend years involved in helping others do the same.

It’s a gift I’m glad I didn’t avoid!

6 thoughts on “When avoidance strengthens fear, dive in!

  1. The appointment might help. If what they are talking about is a steroid/cortisone shot, I understand your hesitation. I was told that was a remedy for my shoulders [last Oct/Nov … bursitis from overdoing it at the gym]. I hesitated and delayed and did all the other remedies: taking it easy, ice, taking it easy, ice. And in time I’ve nearly got back to functioning normally. My research says 6-24 months and my experience says 6+ … . I’ve found I do a lot of things differently because I’m compensating. Most of my research on the shots suggest they work (in the short run) if they are perfectly executed in ‘just the right spot’ which it seems they rarely are. I’ve spent time with a chiropractor and a massage therapist. And I can lift things now, I can use my arms and shoulders again with modest discomfort. I’ve not, as my Doctor warned, experienced ‘frozen shoulder’.

    As for all that other psycho-babble in your column … sure you’ve got pains and hurts stored in your brain and probably some of those in some muscles – most of that trouble is between your ears, not in your shoulder and arm.

    It’s NOT about the appointment and your aversion to it …

    And it’s not in your head – it’s your arm and shoulder. Ice. Ice. Ice. Take it easy. Take it easy. Ice. Ice. Ice.


    Dr. Mark

    p.s. word is, in addition to not being very effective most of the time for most people, the shots hurt a lot …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Mark! Yes, it is cortisone — and my chiro recommended it — but doing it with Mayfair who use ultrasound to ensure it’s properly placed.

    As to the psycho-babble, 🙂 All things are connected. I believe when we acknowledge how the stuff between our ears interferes with fearless living, we can deal with the ‘whole’ body, not just the parts. 🙂 Hugs


  3. As your older sister and voice of experience receiving Cortisone shots book it with Mayfair. A Radiologist using a screen (ultra sound/x-ray?) guides his/her needle. Yes it hurts for a moment but within a week or so the Cortisone should help the inflammation. Believe me when I say getting an injection in a shoulder or knee is much less painful than getting them in the feet (that is an experience one should avoid). Book soon as it might take a while to get an appointment. You could also ask to go on the cancellation list. Good luck and less pain are only a phone call away! Much Love, Jackie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cortisone shot is worth it, Louise, and Mayfair clinic is awesome. Yes, the injection hurts; especially if relieving bone on bone pain. The result is relief. Take it easy as your body heals, but keep moving those joints. So important. Perhaps consider physio as well. Good luck.😙

    Liked by 1 person

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