Thursday, June 19, 2008

Avoiding Grief


You know what I'm talking about if you've been bereaved for any length of time. In our anxiety as a new widow/er, we often use avoidance as a common coping mechanism. We would rather avoid our anxiety than deal with it. And don't get me wrong — in the early months of grieving, grief avoidance is probably a good thing. In fact, it can often make the difference between getting through the next five minutes and totally losing it. But eventually, we need to stare our anxiety in the face if we ever want to heal. By avoiding grief, we passively let our anxiety run our body. Whatever direction it takes us, it isn't a healing one.

In my "rollercoaster" series, I quote from a great book called MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind" by Dr Paul Dobransky. He does a fantastic job of making sense of our bewildering emotions. If you've ever wondered how to deal with anxiety, this is one post you'll want to pay close attention to.

To recap from The Rollercoaster III: anxiety is a signal to which there are only three possible responses — courage, worrying/complaining/victim thinking, or impulsiveness. Avoidance fits in to the impulsiveness response.

I'll let Dr Paul take it from here [pages 183-187]:

Anxiety is not good or bad. Just like anger, it is a SIGNAL. It tells you something is wrong and needs to be done. If you recall, anger signals you that you have unmet needs. Well anxiety signals you that you have fears, challenges, change or risk to face and rise to...

When we are passive with our anxiety and don’t like to make decisions, it likes to “go on autopilot” and is run by the “fight-or-flight” reflex. This reflex makes us either impulsive or avoidant of things we need to face. When there is an anxiety or fear to be faced, our “gut” tendency is to either want to RUN from it to avoid it, or else to attack it impulsively without thinking first.

We need this “fight-or-flight” reflex though for one situation, and one only: SURVIVAL! Yet most of the time, we are NOT under a real threat to our lives. So what happens when we are passive with anxiety? The reflex STILL drives us to be impulsive — to act without thinking — and we overeat, overspend, get addicted, and a host of other behaviors that ironically ARE a threat on our life if we do them enough!

...We overeat, overspend, get overworked, get addicted to drugs, alcohol, or medicines of abuse as unconscious ways of lowering our anxiety through spending it on these physical activities. They are all temporary fixes that lower our anxiety, but if the original sources of that anxiety are still present — loss or fear of loss, or lack of confidence about a particular aspect of life, then we see a rise of anxiety again soon after indulging our addiction....

Allow ourselves to feel the anxiety and then THINK about it. Feelings CAN’T hurt us or cause us more loss, only real threats can...

If I STOP to THINK BEFORE ACTING, I can get in touch with this valuable signal called anxiety — turn the arrow UP. Notice how the Anger Map and Anxiety Map have some opposite properties — anger turned inward causes depression, but anxiety turned inward instead of into immediate action leads to personal growth!

Actively dealing with our anxiety leaves us with two options: courage or worrying and complaining. In my next post, I'll explain what's really going on when we worry and/or complain.

1 comment:

Christy Wong said...


You are receiving this message because I thought you may be interested in joining in the blog tour for When God and Grief Meet by Lynn Eib. The book releases in February from Tyndale House Publishers. A blog tour is a virtual book tour. We are planning on having the tour during the first week of February. If you choose to participate, you will post your blog entry on your assigned day. The author will be visiting these blogs as part of the tour.


Dates: February 2-5, 2009; post by 8 AM ET
Reply by: 8 AM CT, January 5, 2009
Book review
Author Bio
Synopsis and cover

Feel free to include as many or as few of the above options in your blog post. We would like to ask you to post your review on Amazon also. You can even encourage your visitors to purchase the book from Amazon if they are interested in a copy of their own.

Below are a synopsis and author bio for your convenience. The cover image and/or author photo can be sent to you at your request. A press release is attached to give you further information and to help you write a review if you choose to do so.

Please let me know by 8 AM CT, Monday, January 5, 2009 if you are interested in participating in the blog tour, and if so I will send you a review copy of When God & Grief Meet as well as additional instructions. You should then have everything you need to take part in the blog tour during the week of February 2-5. I will assign you to a date on the tour. Please let me know if you have any date preferences within that week. If not or if you have other questions, feel free to contact me and, of course, let me know if you would prefer to be removed from this list.

Thank you for your consideration,

Christy Wong
Tyndale House Publishers

When God and Grief Meet Synopsis:
From the author of When God & Cancer Meet comes this powerful message for mourners. Each chapter contains inspiring real-life stories of grievers from all walks of life who have faced difficult losses. The focus of the stories is not the circumstances of how the loved ones died, but how those left behind are finding the strength to continue living without them.
Written in the heartfelt, hopeful style for which Lynn Eib has become known, this book contains warm insights and true stories illustrating that God is close to the brokenhearted and can comfort and encourage those whose minds are filled with doubts and whose hearts are filled with grief.

Lynn Eib’s Bio:
Lynn Eib is a long-time cancer survivor, journalist, and patient advocate who has provided emotional and spiritual support to thousands of cancer survivors and their caregivers. She also facilitates spiritually based grief and cancer support groups. She is the author of When God & Cancer Meet and Finding the Light in Cancer’s Shadow and is the special-features author for the He Cares New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. Lynn lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and has three grown daughters. Visit Lynn Eib’s website at