Acceptance Versus Avoidance – Part 1

Psychological Flexibility

Psychological flexibility can be seen as a continuum of being emotionally flexible and healthy to being emotionally inflexible and unhealthy. The process of developing Psychological Flexibility follows core aspects of how we deal with or interact with life challenges. This first core aspect that we will explore is our ability to deal with experiences by acceptance versus avoidance. Here is an explanation of how this works:

Daily Experience

Daily Experience

Acceptance – Acceptance is our ability to embrace reality as it happens in real time, even when it’s painful. Ultimately, dealing with reality is our responsibility in this world. When we own this responsibility, we grow emotionally and spiritually.

Experiential Avoidance – happens as we develop habits of ignoring, distorting, or trying to forget unpleasant events and life experiences (Hayes, 2012). The more we try to avoid the problems in our lives, the more dysfunctional and intense our emotional pain becomes. Experiential Avoidance is like living in a fantasy. We naturally avoid because it makes us feel good. Unfortunately, the more we move towards avoidance, the more unrealistic and dysfunctional life becomes.

The scripture to the left points us toward taking responsibility in whatever we struggle with through a process of acceptance. Acceptance involves the steps of admitting, analyzing, and making life adjustments. Avoidance involves disconnecting from the problem, which feels good in the short term, but leads to repeating the same dysfunctional behaviors over and over again in the long term.

Basic Personal Dynamics That Trigger Experiential Avoidance:

Explore this list of Bible references with the dynamic of Pride to identify areas of avoidance.
Pride: Proverbs 8:13; 16:5; 16:18-19; 21:4, Matthew 6:1-8, 18:1-4; 20:25-28, 1 Corinthians 4:7, 1 Peter 5:5-6.
  • Avoids dependency on God and others – Pride avoids this responsibility by the fantasy of dealing with life “my way” instead of seeking to submit to God’s way. It avoids the need to obey the Lord. It allows us to live in a fantasy world where we get to play god, and make our own rules.
  • Avoids the pain of vulnerability – Pride is the fantasy of making ourselves better than others. This ultimately leads to judgmental behavior in a fantasy where we are more worthy than others.

Here are some questions to help explore the dynamic of Pride. The goal here is to dig deep, and open up to as many examples of avoidance as possible. Then find a trusted friend or counselor to give feedback on how you are doing.

  • In what way has Pride given me an excuse to blame others instead of taking responsibility for my life?
  • In what way has Pride allowed me to live in a fantasy instead of dealing with reality?
  • In what way has Pride cut me off from God?
  • In what way has Pride cut me off from my marriage and/or family?
  • In what way has Pride cut me off from friendship and connection in the church?

Next week we will begin exploring the dynamic of Doubt in identifying areas of avoidance. If you struggle with challenging emotions and life situations, know that help is available. We would love to connect you with a Christian Counselor from CCA to help. Call us and begin a journey of healing and growth. We hope to hear from you!

God Bless!

Richard Hoffman Ph.D.

Clinical Director
Christian Counseling Associates

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