It’s time to stop looking busy, pretending that you’ve got too much to do and no time to think.
No more letting distractions take over or filling your time with pointless activities just to prevent yourself from having to face something you know that you’ve been avoiding. You know exactly what’s happening, you’re just running.
Ask yourself these three simple questions.
Do you think that if you keep running, it will mean you won’t ever have to face what you’ve been hiding from?
Do you convince yourself that it’s better not to dwell and that you’ve moved on?
Do you hope that if you ignore it, (whatever ‘it’ is), it might go away?
Well, let me be the one to break it to you. You won’t and it won’t.
You can become extremely proficient at burying things inside of you. You can excel at ignoring that little nagging voice in your head, and successfully fool yourself into believing that, by facing another direction, you’ll only have to look at what you can see. Not true, I’m afraid.
Eleven years ago, my client Amanda (whose name I have changed and who gave me permission to recount her story), discovered that her husband, of twenty years, had been cheating on her. It was one of those situations where one discovery followed another and led to a shocking revelation that they were also in serious financial trouble. There were rumblings of a very unhappy bank, talk of foreclosures and suffice to say, many sleepless nights ensued.
She was terrified on behalf of her two children, of losing the family home and so her main focus became about ensuring that she did everything possible to avoid that. It took quite a number of years to get the finances all sorted, but she did it. Understandably, she felt incredibly proud of herself for having done this. And she had done it on her own.
While all this had begun, Amanda’s marriage had ended. To get through, she’d slipped into survival mode and had boxed off the emotional fallout, convincing herself that she had dealt with it, by securing her and her children’s future. But the reality was different. There were so many layers to her pain. Amanda’s financial worries were one thing, but what about the betrayal and the deep hurt that she felt when the truth of her husband’s affairs had emerged? The shame, the embarrassment and the smashed to pieces broken heart were all she was left with.
She was so angry with him, but what made it so much worse was that despite those feelings she wasn’t able to stop loving him. He had not just disrespected her and their family but he had taken the future she had imagined for them from her. She was devastated by the death of her marriage so she had thrown her energy into other areas. It was the only thing she knew how to do. Dealing with the practical stuff felt like the far easier option.
“I thought I’d coped well, all things considered,” says Amanda. “So last year, when I was at my nieces wedding and I had this overwhelming sense of loss and despair, I genuinely had no idea what was happening, I really didn’t. On the advice of a close friend, I decided to go for counselling and it was definitely a case of opening the floodgates.
“This last year has been extremely painful, as I finally started to process and deal with all that had gone on. I had to admit that behind the tough exterior, lay a soft, wounded and very vulnerable woman. I felt like two different people. I thought if I ignored the heartbreak, and the pain of what my husband had done, it would eventually disappear. It was only when I was finally ready to confront it head-on, when I was willing to really think about it and talk about it, that I started to release the power and hold it had over me for all those years. I’m not going to pretend it happened overnight, it is still very much a work in progress, but it’s happening and I’m not ignoring it. My only regret, which won’t surprise anyone, is that I left it this long.”
When life throws something difficult and challenging your way, you can tackle it, deal with it quickly and move on. But until you process it deeply, and allow yourself to face the pain and the sadness that the situation demands, your avoidance will only be temporary.
Avoiding pain hurts you so much more in the long run. Pain is necessary and the truth is that pain is in fact the single biggest catalyst for growth. You cannot avoid feelings. You cannot bury them and nor can you hide them or hide from them. Avoiding the pain of remembering, trying not to think about it or talk about it, will only result in more suffering. It’s only through the pain and not avoiding it that you will finally know true relief from suffering.
Even if you believe that you’ve closed the door on some hurt or loss you have experienced in the past, if you don’t face it, it will inevitably come back to bite you. While I know this might not sound cheerful or encouraging, if you face things head-on, process them, feel them and eventually work your way through them, then when you come out the other side you’ll know you are done with it and more importantly, it will be done with you!
And please don’t beat yourself up for not moving fast enough, remember you also are a work in progress, which means you will get there, one step at a time and never all at once.
You can avoid reality but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality – Ayn Rand.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Empowerment and Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. If you want to discover just what kind of a people pleaser you are, try Niamh’s quiz or find her on Instagram on @1niamhennis.