The consequences of avoidance

Fred Cavaiani

When I avoid pain, I avoid life. When I run from joy, I run from life. When I stay angry at another person and obsess over how I would want them to change, I avoid positive changes within myself.

The young child who panics when leaving the comfort of their home to start kindergarten finally has to face this anxiety. The high school graduate has to embrace the difficult responsibilities of becoming a college student in order to succeed. The single person must give up the single life in order to succeed at marriage. Every step forward in life is facing the pain of letting go of something in order to embrace the joy of receiving something better. Every moment in life is experiencing something better while I let go of something that is no longer helpful. It is the journey of all of us. This journey can become a journey of avoidance.

 We avoid things because of the pain involved in facing ourselves. When I avoid the pain of exercise I also avoid the good feeling of health. When I avoid the silence of meditation I will avoid the peace of serenity. When I avoid listening attentively to another person I avoid the joy of experiencing a deeper relationship. When I avoid the leap of Faith, I avoid the wisdom of encountering Someone bigger than myself. When I avoid intimacy with another person, I avoid the comfort of friendship and love.

There are no free tickets to a happy life. We all have our wounds and scars. It is precisely in the wounds and scars within ourselves that we mature to a deeper wisdom and love. Yet we can easily delude ourselves into a belief that life should be easy and comfortable. Look over your life and you will realize that life is never that easy. There will always be struggles to embrace. It is in the embrace of these struggles that our minds and hearts can open up to something profound and wonderful.

 Some people will avoid facing necessary pain through drugs, alcohol, food, or whatever addiction might procrastinate or temporarily anesthetize the pain. The ultimate avoidance is suicide. Yet any avoidance of facing pain puts us right back at the starting point. It keeps us from going forward. I personally think that those who end their lives through suicide simply have to start right from where they left off. Whatever next life there is can never be entered unless we first to embrace what we have to face. We do not get punished from some arbitrary God or Deity for our actions. We punish ourselves when our actions are actions of avoidance. Some people might avoid what they have to feel for an eternity. That would be hell. But in this life and whatever the next life might be, we always have a chance to get out of hell by embracing our pain. In this embrace we rise to a new life of hope and joy and love. It all happens in the present moment of life.

The consequences of avoiding what we must face to journey forward can be devastating. It becomes an avoidance of the present moment. Every present moment is life-giving and enriching regardless of how painful or joyful it might be.

It is fascinating to observe how different addictions regress people. I am always amazed at the beginning of winter as I see people in my 26-story office building go outside to have a cigarette while they are freezing as they puff away. It just doesn’t seem very energizing. As they come in from having their cigarettes while freezing their whole bodies I am grateful that I no longer smoke. It is as if they have lost their freedom.

 Present moments of life never end. In the embrace of healthily facing this present moment I will find heaven. In the avoidance of this present moment I will discover hell. I think heaven is a better choice.

It takes a long time to learn the lesson of maturely and embracing the present moment of life. But we are given chance after chance to live life fully and joyfully. Each second of life is an opportunity to realize that so much opens up to us when we stop avoiding what we have to face. It is a choice we can make now.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage and family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is


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