“I don’t want to deal with it.”
Some people avoid going to doctors because they “don’t want to deal” with what they might find out. Some people avoid relationships or contacts with people because they “don’t want to deal” with something — drama or conflict. Some people don’t want to go to therapy because they “don’t want to deal” with the pain of their past or the ongoing suffering in their lives.
I think what we’re avoiding is vulnerability. We’d rather keep imperfect facades of wellness, self-control, happiness, or stoicism. We’d rather pretend everything is okay rather than admit to others and ourselves that we are not all okay. We’d rather pretend we are strong and invulnerable than face the reality that we can be hurt. We’d rather avoid conflict or discord rather than face the responsibility of having our own power.
In my opinion, the very thing we “don’t want to deal with” is often what we absolutely need to become whole and connected to life.
Where does “it” go when we don’t deal with “it”? Sometimes time and circumstance conspire to free us of a particular burden, but in the interim, how much does this avoidance keep us suffering from anxiety, anger, or fear, which we keep stuffing back into the closet of Things I Am Not Dealing With? What about those problems that continue to linger in the background, gathering energy, becoming more terrifying or upsetting with every passing day? What about the unpaid parking tickets that become the court summons? What about the little lie that spirals into the big lie? What about the minor hurt that comes to symbolize everything wrong with the relationship?
What is invested in Not Dealing With Things? What do we think would happen if we Dealt? “If I know the truth, I’ll fall apart.” “I’ll never stop crying.” There are circumstances in life where we must abide with our emotional habits to survive. More often, I think, we become persuaded by a part of us that desperately wants to believe it is in control at all times and continues to throw out seemingly-rational excuse after seemingly-rational excuse as to why now is not the time to “deal with it.”
We might become convinced thatf there is no middle ground; either it must be rigidly in control or it is completely collapsed and a mess. This is a narrow view of what is possible. This is how we become stuck. This is how simple problems evolve into complex problems. This can feel like “being strong,” but truly it is powerlessness. We would rather feel overwhelmed or enraged by a huge drama rather than address the problem in the moment, to turn and dare to say, “I feel hurt by what you said.”
We can deal with things a little at a time, taking steps. We don’t have to do it all at once, but we benefit when we do what we can when we can. Notice the fear or anger. Breathe in deeply, filling the belly. Exhale completely. Then act. Set an appointment with the doctor. Pay the parking ticket. Open the letter. Make the phone call. Go to therapy. Open the door to stuckness, pain, or fear, and open it with purpose. Continue breathing.
Avoiding these “its” with which we do not deal means that they shape and run our lives. Choosing to face and address the “it” means that we, our conscious selves, are beginning to set the terms. Those first attempts might be awkward and clumsy. We may feel terrified or overwhelmed. We may find ourselves sitting with all our “stuff.”
If we keep going, we may find that we don’t always fall apart in the face of adversity, that sometimes we do get what we want, that eventually the crying stops, and that we can come through and find something else. We may find freedom.