Do you spend a lot of energy avoiding pain? Many trauma survivors spend a huge amount of time trying to avoid emotional pain. It is a natural response, but one that complicates our lives tremendously. The biggest sign you have that you are avoiding your pain is if you are doing things compulsively. Some examples include the following:
- Do you use drugs or alcohol to avoid feeling pain?
- Do you eat more than you should or eat when you are upset?
- Do you exercise frequently, for hours at a time, several times per week?
- Are you in love with romance, so much so that you are avoiding everything else in your life?
- Does being in love, or seeking out love take over your life?
- Do you have sex to avoid feeling and/or intimacy?
- Do you use sex to cope?
- Do you masturbate too much?
- Do you fantasize or stay in your head too much?
- Do you use the television or computer for several hours per day?
- Do you keep yourself busy so you don’t have to think about the problems that you are having?
- Do you gamble away your problems?
- Are you a workaholic – you work so much that work is your life?
- Do you shop and spend more money than you have?
All of these are common strategies many people use to avoid pain. You may have other ways not listed here that you use to avoid pain. The key is, are you constantly trying to avoid feeling your pain? If you are, therapy is a good idea.
Avoiding one’s feelings just makes things harder. Your body needs a way to express these feelings, so they will come out in one way or another. If you are able to cry, get angry, and experience your feelings thoroughly and don’t avoid pain, your body doesn’t need to find another way to do it. But, if you are avoiding, you will constantly seek out distractions, find yourself acting out the pain in other ways. You may find yourself getting angry for no apparent reason, developing physical problems, such as an ulcer, back aches, headaches, jaw pain, or chronic muscle tension. Some people develop even more serious health problems like heart attacks, strokes, and chronic bowel problems because they avoid their emotional pain for long periods of time. Learning to deal with your pain will help you in all areas of your life. If you are a pain avoider, reach out for support! Pain avoidance interferes with your happiness and health! You can’t avoid feeling one emotion and feel the others. You have to repress them all. It is the biggest warning sign that something is wrong in your life. Listen to your behaviors and reach out for support!