Resistances, Avoidance, and Withdrawal

In our ongoing, alternating awareness of our responses to the external world and the internal world, we can notice there are moments of resistance. We think we should do something but we cannot get ourselves to do it. There are moments of avoidance. We know a task is out there and we forget, or do something else, or distract ourselves. We avoid noticing the task. There are moments of withdrawal. We don’t want to go out, see people, address problems, or take action. Our internal conversation with ourselves begins to focus on these ways of not doing, not feeling, and not thinking.

There are methods of overcoming these obstacles, but first we have to decide if they are important to overcome. Or are they signaling something needing attention? First we have to notice and listen. Sometimes we get distracted with an internal kind of criticism for having these reactions. But part of the art of managing our minds is knowing when to accept a “gut instinct” and when to override. It would be so much easier if there were simple ways of making this choice. But it falls into the category of “no right answer.” If we turn right we will have one outcome and if we turn left we will have a different outcome. Parts of those outcomes might be predictable and parts of them may be unpredictable.

Looking back we can see our lives have unfolded in complex ways, and our choices have been a large, although not sole, part of that unfolding. Sometimes we could see in advance what might happen, but other times, surprising directions developed. Most serious decisions we make have both a predictable aspect and an unpredictable one. This makes them undecidable by any systematic means. Perhaps our hesitations are a response to this complexity and a signal to stop and consider the possibilities.

Some people say, “I can always trust my gut instinct,” and some people never trust their own feelings or responses. It is a lot easier for reality to be one way or another. It takes more effort to recognize that with the complexity of our minds and our lives, our reflective understanding is important, and so are our feelings. Our goals are important and so is the enjoyment of the current moment. Our relationships are important and so is our relationship with ourselves. It is sometimes difficult to inhabit the gray area in the middle, making decisions anew with each turn in the road. But really, that awareness, that flexibility, that capacity allows us full access to ourselves and our worlds.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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5 Responses to Resistances, Avoidance, and Withdrawal

  1. tonyputman says:

    Very nice, Nora. Thought: I wouldn’t call it the “gray area in the middle”, but “the place of conscious aliveness in the present moment.”

  2. norasblog says:

    Thanks for your comment Tony. And thanks for reading the blog.

  3. allisonfine says:

    I really recognize myself in this post! I have been doing a lot of avoidance, resistance and withdrawal. Sometimes the withdrawal just feels “right” and often proves to be a much-needed respite from outer engagements and activities that might have been toxic or just less than optimal for me. The same holds true for friendships/relationships that have become dysfunctional. On the other hand, my avoidance and resistance do not do me much good and I am really paying attention to this! I tend to live in the gray area so this is very familiar to me! Many decisions I made in the past I truly regret and they were so-called “gut decisions”–I’ve been one to avoid thinking things through until the last 7 years or so, and I’ve gone the opposite direction–over-thinking and not deciding at all! There can be a happy medium and I am working to realize this! Thanks for the post.

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