Avoidance and Override

You did it! You're here!

Jeez Louise! Welcome to the midpoint of Holiday Season, 2020! You've made it this far; congratulations! As I mentioned last week, I'm dropping in to chat about avoidance and override, two sides of the same nervous system coin. Avoidance- staying away from, ignoring, pretending it doesn't exist. Override- dissociated movement. Actions divorced from your experience of them. It's as if you're avoiding the experience- not the physical act, but the experience of feeling it.


I am authoring this post from a friend’s couch. I am taking care of her cat and housesitting, but I’m also taking 4 days to myself. Alone. Without my kids or partner. I was so excited to be here. In fact, I had been planning this ‘me time’ since September. SEPTEMBER. This was the first opportunity I had to take any days off, and I sure as hell didn’t want to squander it. I had a whole plan- I was going to leave my electronic devices at home, go on hikes every day, eat really good food without listening to my kids complain about vegetables. I wasn’t going to answer emails, social media, phone calls. I was going to go to bed early and sleep soundly and finally, finally catch up on a little bit of rest after 7 years of interrupted sleep. Can you guess what actually happened?



My human experience snuck up on me. Freezy bits. Self doubt. Lethargy. Malaise. Loneliness. 8 hours of internet searching, social media re-configuration, Netflix binges, etc. Finally logging off for 10 minutes at a time, feeling insanely hung-over, and then popping back on ‘just to check this one thing.’ Do you see what happened there?

  1. Freeziness

  2. Avoidance and overriding

  3. Continued discomfort

Avoidance is so damn easy with the internet at our finger tips. It’s not that checking out is always the wrong choice. By no means. We all need opportunities to unwind and not be in the work every second of every day. But I could tell I felt trapped, bound, fettered by my own mind. I called and left a voice memo with a really trusted friend and just named how I felt and what was happening, and when he called me back this morning, I listened to his message and cried. For the first time since being by myself in this space, I cried. I cried because I felt seen and heard, and the containment of that made it ok to feel what was there. He didn’t try to give me a pep talk. He didn’t give me sympathy. He held space and offered his own stories of discomfort. It was humanizing. I have all kinds of tricks up my sleeve for regulating and coming back into my body. I can “SE” myself all goddamn day, but in end what I find, more and more, to be the most helpful is to offer up the truth of my experience to be witnessed by others. (side note: I am so proud of myself for the gains I've made in reaching out for support. Social Engagement has not always felt safe, and I 100% credit Somatic Experiencing for this). It can be vulnerable and scary. I still get so nervous right before I sit down with my own SEP for sessions, because I know that I can't divert her attention with this shiny coin marked 'override' on one side and 'avoidance' on the other. Whether we completely avoid discomfort or rush through to 'it's all good!' and laugh it off, we're skipping past the opportunity to really understand what's in that discomfort and how to authentically unravel it. Override can get us through a lot. I'd wager it's the primary reason so many of us have gotten so far in life. We've buckled down and made it work, even when we were struggling. But what if we could start feeling a bit more like our vibrant selves again? I want to invite you to start by just noticing. Notice those spaces in your body that speak to you- tightness in your throat, fuzzy vision, bumping into things more often. And when you notice- also take stock of what might help you feel just little more like yourself. A little more grounded, a little more contained, a little more resourced. It doesn't have to swoop in and fix everything with a magic wand, but can going outside and wiggling your feet bring you back into your body? Does placing your hands on your forehead and behind your occiput make your skin feel more solid? Does sending a text message to your BFF remind you that you're not alone? If, like me, your journey involves learning to become less avoidant, remember that pushing through a situation without awareness is much the same behavior.


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