By: Aaron and Taylor
When it comes to avoidance, you probably already know what we’re talking about, but just to clarify let’s go ahead and check out the dictionary definition: Avoidance- the action of keeping away from, or not doing something.
Okay, that seems like a simple enough of a definition and you’re probably thinking of the grand scheme. But what happens when you zoom in? Like… Really zoom in?
Most the time it’s not so obvious what it is you’re avoiding. This makes sense to a degree, you’re avoiding them for a reason, and the more distance you keep fro something, the less harm it will seem to be doing, especially over the course of time. Things associated with avoidance are uncomfortable. They’re inconvenient. You may deem something as unimportant because of your ability to avoid the problem or occurrence. When you’re practicing avoidance, which essentially means just that; you’re practicing it and likely getting better at avoiding current things and at avoiding more now, too… Your avoidances are making you willfully blind, and it is the act of being willfully blind that is the biggest threat to both yourself as well as those who are closest to you.
It is most useful to look at the things you are avoiding with a pragmatists point of view, which is to say that instead of being someone who looks at the world as if it is made up of physical matter like atoms and molecules, you’d say that the world is made out of what matters; or meaning.
This actually makes a lot of sense when dealing with something such as avoidances. After all, avoidances aren’t tangible things that are made out of matter, rather they are truths in which you act out based on the structure of their underlying meanings.
Having now pulled our pragmatists thinking cap from out of our closet and put it on our heads, we’ve so far made two conclusions. The first being that the world is not simply made out of physical matter, but is also shaped just as much by “what matters”. Second, we’ve concluded that avoidances are abstract in nature and are made out of meaning. We illustrate these two conclusions to lead you to the third pragmatic conclusion that might be hypothesized after the first two, and that is that meaning is derived from the mind-body connection that lie in our memories. We know this connection to exist because of the automatic responses you have when certain events or patterns repeat themselves. If you’re scared of snakes, you draw on that fear from your memories (mind), and use it to dictate your living out that fear through your actions (body).
It also make sense for us to talk for one paragraph about it means when we say we’re thinking like a pragmatist. You might be thinking, “in comparison to what”. I certainly didn’t learn what it meant to exercise different modes of thinking from the public school that I went to. So, when we hear someone speaking of something as if it were definitive fact, we would say they are speaking “objectively”; whereas if they were speaking of it as if it were a belief, in terms of it not being able to be definitively proven, we would say they are speaking “subjectively”. Objective thought would be grouped with science and facts and subjective thought would be grouped with philosophy and belief. The method of viewing the world as a pragmatist is best described by Charles Sanders Peirce, when he summed up the process of pragmatic thought by saying to
“consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object”.
You actually practice thinking pragmatically all of the time. Think for a second what it wouls mean to you if I told you to think about “a building”. Okay, now imagine if I asked you to compare what’s in your head right now with what pops into your head when I say “a school”.
What we’re trying to do here is help reveal to yourself what we mean when we say that pragmatic thought has an element of mind-body connectedness. When you consider “a school”, and you extract the embodied element of what you mean when you say that, that embodied element would be no different than the embodied element that would be represented if you referred to the school as “a building instead. This is obviously the body aspect to the mind-body connection we’re illustrating. The mind aspect is derived from the implied meaning you apply to anything within the category of “a school”. Without your preconceived notions of what it means to be a school you’d see no difference between “a building” and “a school”, but since you instinctively act those differences out, you could make a case that the pragmatic truths derived from meaning are as real as anything else.
So, now that we’ve hopefully sold you on the idea that the world is made out of meaning, it’s time to talk about how to use that mode of thought to find the meaning behind the roots of your avoidances. The reason we mentioned memory earlier is because all avoidances stem from a memory of one kind or another, and the key to analyzing your avoidances is to figure out the memory or memories that is the cause of your avoidance. It’s not always as obvious as you think.
Some of your avoidances ARE memories themselves. The reason you’d avoid a particular memory is probably going to be because it makes you uncomfortable. Why would thinking about something make you uncomfortable? It’s probably because you haven’t come to an understanding with the underlying meaning of it yet!
How do you find the underlying meaning of a memory than makes you uncomfortable. It starts by facing the memory head on, in it’s entirety, and stop avoiding it. It’s also helpful to know why things tend to be meaningful. Meaningful things that manifest through the memories that stem your avoidances are generally consequences of you living out a series of actions, and the outside world not responding to your actions in the way you expected. It is in knowing that allows you to then analyze the series of actions you acted out both alone and in relation to the actions the rest of the world lived out, and use your analysis to figure out you did not end up with the expected end results. If you determine you didn’t get the responses you expected because of external forces, you’ll be able to drop the negativity that harbors your tendencies of avoidance. If you realize the reception of your actions was a direct result of the way your actions were perceived, it would help you to know that too, so that you could correct your behavior in order to bring about the responses you want and expect from the world.
If you can’t determine the reason for your avoidances by deriving meaning from the memories of those avoidances, don’t get discouraged. Avoidances are the materials, memories are the tools, and the meanings are the pieces of architecture we are building with our bounty of materials and tools; and when you can’t seem to put your finger on what the “meaning” of something is, it’s probably because you either need more “tools”, or more “material” to work with.