The power of emotional avoidance

Yesterday, I was reading in The Psychologist Archives, about “workaholics” and whether you can be addicted to work. It suggests that if you are doing it to avoid other things in your life then it would qualify as an addiction.

Given that addiction is assumed to have a physical basis, that it is a “disease”, I am neither convinced that being a workaholic, or any other addiction, meets this criteria.

Rather than suggesting that there is some kind of unknown disease process at work, is it not more parsimonious to assume that they are all just examples of emotional avoidance?

So many “psychological disorders” are assumed to be due to a disease process, despite the scant evidence to support it and the masses of evidence showing that life circumstances, trauma and social factors are big contributors to these disorders.

Most of them have emotional avoidance at their centre.

This is important for applied reasons. If an unknown disease process is at work, we are no closer to having a remedy. If it is emotional avoidance at work, then we have numerous effective psychological therapies, such as the third wave therapies, to address this.

But not the dreadful CBT. The cognitive “restructuring” involved is, in itself, a form of emotional avoidance and, from a learning theory point of view, doesn’t make any sense. Surely, the “bad” thoughts re-emerge due to extinction?

And, CBT makes the mistake of assuming that thoughts or emotions can be “good” or “bad”. They are neither. They just are. If you want good mental and physical health, they are not to be avoided but experienced. The idea that you can live your life without “bad” thoughts or emotions is a fallacy that CBT continues to peddle.

Given the complicated nature of addiction and ALL psychological “disorders” is it likely that there will EVER be a magic bullet? Is this not in itself delusional thinking? At the very least, overly simplistic and parochial? Can human nature be reduced to this neurotransmitter, this area of the brain, this gene? Is this search not, in of itself, a form of avoidance?

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10 thoughts on “The power of emotional avoidance

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