learning not to avoid things

• 7 min read

In recent months and weeks, I have been realising just to what extent I avoid things, and how subtly this shows up.

learning not to avoid things

How to deal with my emotions + feelings, better

I say this every year, but how is it almost Christmas already?

Well, okay, saying it’s almost Christmas is questionable, I know. But we’re now less than 50 days away, and those are bound to fly by.

I’ve already got Christmas-related family activities in the diary (and a big family meal, and a trip away), and Channel 5 is showing cheesy, Christmassy movies every afternoon this week. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for those.

This week, I’ve also started writing a new story, and an ‘Intuitive Writing’ group course with my friend (and fellow INF) Lauren Sapala. I’ve not yet watched the 1st class (it happened on Zoom in the early hours, as I’m in the UK, but I’m looking forward to catching up on the recording).

What else has happened this week?

Well, I discovered a new, well-known, self-professed INFJ (you’ll have to read on to find out more)…

Finally, I’ve also been working on something that I’m really excited about. If you’re an INFP or an INFJ, I hope you’ll be as excited about this as I am. I look forward to sharing more details with you in due course.

In the mean, though, here’s this week’s Wednesday piece for you.

As always, feel free to leave a comment on Twitter @inf_club or to drop me a note; jasraj.s.hothi@gmail.com

Learning not to avoid my feelings + emotions

Every time I think that I know myself well and that there’s little more to discover, I then come to learn more about myself. Or, in this case, have a greater understanding of the extent to which I am a certain way.

In recent months and weeks, I have been realising just to what extent I avoid things, and how subtly this shows up.

For example, I recently wrote about my trials and tribulations on the subject of friendships; I described a particular series of events that happened in that piece, but what I didn’t mention was that I had gone to bed feeling kinda sh*tty, because I’d left the WhatsApp group I’d created for the birthday plans in quite a rash manner and on a slightly awkward note. This was after my efforts had been met with “Oh, not another WhatsApp group” message from one of the guys (as if I actually like WhatsApp groups myself…), and then there was a general lack of activity and “I’m not really bothered” attitude that I got from the other guys from their lack of activity. In other words, I’d tried to take the reigns to make plans with a group of guys who (apart from one of them) I didn’t really know too well yet, and it had been met on deaf ears (or, inactive thumbs).

That evening, I dived onto the PlayStation to try and avoid the discomfort of these mixed feelings; of being ignored, of being upset and offended and a bit angry. That was stage 1 of Jas avoids.

The next morning, I woke early. This was probably partly due to me going to bed with this stuff still tumbling around my mind, and my subconscious/psyche was still feeling these emotions whilst I was still asleep. It was definitely on my mind… one of the guys had reached out to me directly when I left the WhatsApp group, last night. On waking early, I went downstairs and sent him a reply. And then I got back into bed, closed my eyes and slept again… again, shutting myself off and dealing with my emotions through more avoidance, this time through sleeping.

I remember when my mental health took a plummet 3 years ago, after I'd left my recruitment job, had finished my Masters and the 'own thing' I had tried to get off of the ground had failed. I found myself spending more and more time up late, on the PlayStation or watching TV, and then more and more time in bed the next day.

Those are two of the things I find myself doing when I’m trying to avoid unpleasant feelings (and thoughts, but it mostly feels like unpleasant feelings). And there's a third, too. Here they are:

1. Sleeping / otherwise staying in bed

2. Watching TV and/or playing on the Playstation

3. Diving onto my phone and mindlessly browsing/scrolling/otherwise procrastinating (before smartphones were a thing, this used to be mindless activity on the computer, for hours and hours. Controlling my online activity, and keeping it healthy, has been a big one for me and something I continue to manage today)

(4. Previously, I would go out with my colleagues and drink)

And, this stuff happens so easily. When I feel icky stuff I don’t want to feel - whether anger, or upset, or distress, or even just confusion/overwhelm (e.g. at times of uncertainty I've experienced since leaving my unfulfilling-yet-safe job in the City (that article was one of the 1st blog pieces I ever wrote, btw, and the first I published on Medium). Much of the last 4 years have felt very unsettling as I've been in limbo and experimented with a number of different paths and projects), what I can easily slip into is this avoidance.

Why? Because I don't like to feel uneasy and unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Nor do I like to sit with them. And, as a sensitive introvert, that's what I do. Try to numb them or make them disappear completely.

Or, I try to bury my head into books or podcasts or the internet, clinging on and hoping to magically find an answer through what I call procrasti-reading; aka, endless reading on a subject or topic (e.g. career change) and hoping to find a magic-bullet answer. That’s what it feels like on the surface, but what I'm really doing is desperately avoiding my thoughts and feelings, to bury the self-doubt and overwhelm and confusion and make them disappear, by pushing them deep down and shovelling information on top of them.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t work. Ironically, it can lead to even more self-doubt and overwhelm and confusion.

The good thing is that this is something that I have been realising more and more in the present moment, as it is happening.

So, what am I doing instead?

Firstly, I try to sit with what I am feeling and experiencing as it arises. It helps to write it down, to get it out on paper, so I'm not turning it over again-and-again and I'm actually doing something with it, rather than just let it sit there and fester, or push it down and avoid it.

I try to create pause and space in my day, whether it's sitting in the jacuzzi and doing a couple of minutes’ grounding mindfulness (I did that in the bath today), or a yoga class, or 10 minutes of the 'Calm' (meditation) app before bed.

The more calm, at ease and grounded I feel, the more I can recognise when I am feeling things I don't want to feel. I can then lean into and deal with it, rather than avoid it.

To sit with what I am experiencing, and to write it down on paper - or, talk it through with some I know and trust - is a much more conducive thing to do rather than to run from what I am feeling.

In my experience, avoidance only leads to those feelings building up. And, I suspect, those feelings - if they're powerful and long-lasting enough (i.e. allowed to fester) - might just embed themselves into our psyche and remain there, undealt with, just to spring up later on or otherwise manifest themselves in unhelpful ways.

Basically, thoughts/feelings/emotions are best off being dealt with and expressed as they arise, rather than run away from and avoided.

This is a HUGE realisation for me, and I hope that I continue to take my own advice going forward.

Hopefully, by sharing this with you, this has hammered the point home even more firmly and made me even more accountable to taking constructive, helpful action when these situations continue to arise (I am a sensitive feeler after all, so these situations will continue to arise).

I'll keep you posted, but it feels much better for me to put these thoughts and feelings down on paper.

No, seriously. I feel better already.

Okay, so what now?

I would encourage you to think about how you currently deal with unpleasant feelings and emotions.

Do you manage them healthily and deal with them as they arise? Or, do you try to avoid, numb or otherwise run from them in some way? Has what I have written about today resonated with you in any way?

Some other stuff…

🌕 LonerWolf
I’ve recently come across the LonerWolf blog, run by Luna and Sol (an INFJ and INTJ). I love the whole vibe of the website, and I don’t think I’ve ever such a wealth of knowledge and practical information around the subject of deep, soul-based work. I also love their definition of a free spirit:

🔮 His Dark Materials
I was just a kid when I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy, and I only actually read the first book. That first book has been made into an 8-part television series, airing every Sunday evening in the UK (BBC1), and every Monday evening in the US (on HBO). I really enjoyed the opening episode, which was watched by 7.4mn in the UK, making it the most-watched new British show in 5 years on any channel. It looks like my next few Sunday evenings are set, and I may well have to read the trilogy now.

💎 Marina
Singer-songwriter Marina, previously known as Marina and the Diamonds, previously revealed that she’s an INFJ in a reply on Twitter. I promptly added her catchy anthem Primadonna to my Spotify playlist, as well as a couple of her recent albums (thanks to fellow INF Jaymie for the recommendation).



photo: Priscilla Du Preez (via unsplash)

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