Fear and Avoidance OPI Living

A Love Story: The Dysfunctional Relationship Between Fear and Avoidance

The Dysfunctional Relationship between Fear and AvoidanceWorking as a therapist at a residential treatment program, I see young adults who constantly struggle with issues of fear and avoidance. They avoid paying bills, dodge most social encounters, and procrastinate on schoolwork. Such evasion makes it very difficult for them to move forward with their lives, achieve success, and gain greater independence. In helping OPI Living participants uncover the motivation behind their need to avoid, it often becomes clear that their avoidance is fueled by fear and anxiety: fear of being rejected, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and fear of growing up, often referred to as “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

The reason I refer to fear and avoidance as a dysfunctional relationship is that though we recognize that they are unhealthy for each other, at times it seems nearly impossible to break them up. The harder things get, the more they seem to cling to each other in an unhealthy, co-dependent way. It becomes a vicious cycle where a participant’s fears lead him or her to avoidance that, in turn, further exacerbates the fear and anxiety leading to an even greater level of evasion. Taken to an extreme, this can result in a participant feeling paralyzed or completely stuck.

We all know that break-ups are never easy and sometimes require us to step outside of our comfort zones, allow ourselves to feel vulnerable, and take a leap of faith with the hope that the end result is worth it. It is through facing our fears that we often achieve the greatest successes. The challenge for our participants is to recognize the unhealthy relationships in their lives. They can then learn from them and move forward, forming healthier, more balanced relationships like the one between perseverance and success.

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