If your life doesn’t seem to be progressing as it should and you seem stuck in the same patterns of behaviour, you might be avoiding your problems on a mental and emotional level. All the self help information that has flooded social media and modern literature tells us to think positively in order to change our lives for the better. Although there is a lot of good to this approach, to the ill informed (especially addictive personality types) it can cause more damage than good.
Believe it or not, too much thought suppression and replacing negatives with neutral or positive thinking can be a bad thing if there is cognitive avoidance and the problematic situation isn’t accepted and dealt with proactively ahead of the more positive thinking. It’s all about balance – too much suppression can be a bad thing!
For example, if you struggle to maintain personal relationships, it would be far more effective to look at the situation honestly (especially if the problem has persisted for more than 2 years) and look at your own responsibility in creating the situation rather than telling yourself it’s everybody else and not you. This is pure cognitive avoidance.
There are two types of cognitive avoidance: implicit/automatic strategies and explicit/voluntary strategies.
Those of us that worry a great deal often worry with less mental images than people who are less anxious. This decreased mental imagery can lead to desensitisation and even ‘numbness’ towards life. The more we suppress, the more we remove ourselves from the emotion of life.
This can interfere with healthy, normal emotional processing and leave a person devoid of empathy, living in a mental suppression bubble which will lead to them finding it harder to connect with others as they emotionally withdraw. This often happens without conscious awareness of what is going on.
As mentioned before – if you seem stuck in the same old patterns you may heave learned to deal with stress and feared situations by avoiding thinking about them, which results in a problem not being dealt with at all. It is impossible to think yourself out of every problem – sometimes positive action needs to be taken and a good dose of personal responsibility needs to be included! Thought suppression can in fact lead to further anxiety and low mood.
If you seem stuck, seek out professional help to identify and tackle unhelpful problem solving strategies that you may have picked up. Life is all about balance – watching our thinking in a healthy balanced way coupled with a healthy dose of reality where we own and accept our part in creating the situation is the best way to move our of your mental and emotional rut.