Avoid Negative Feelings: How and Why We Avoid Our Feelings

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Decoys:  What They Are and What Can We Do About Them

You might avoid negative feelings in ways you never suspected.  Learn all about your favorite “decoys,” in this guest post by Lorraine Faehndrich, creator of RadientLifeDesign.com.

Are there things in your life that you wish you could stop doing but feel like you have no control over? 

Maybe you promised yourself yesterday that you were going to eat only fruits, veggies and protein and today you found yourself munching on potato chips and girl scout cookies and then beating yourself up about it.

Or, you just had a big disagreement with your partner (or your sister or you boss) and you’ve been obsessing about it ever since. 

You want to let it go so you can get something done, but your mind is spinning with the details. 

Or, at night when you lay down to go to sleep and you immediately start worrying about – well anything – maybe money or that you’re alone. 

You can’t control it. 

You wonder if you’re having a panic attack.  Your heart is racing and your stomach is dropping and you want desperately to feel safe and peaceful and be able to sleep.

What these 3 scenarios all have in common is that in each of them you are using what I call a decoy. 

A decoy is anything that you do, consciously or unconsciously, to avoid feeling an emotion. 

For many reasons, we will do just about anything to avoid feeling an emotion and most of the time we have no idea we’re doing it.

Case in point:  I’m a massage therapist and a health coach.  I’ve been to naturopathic college, studied the body, nutrition, and energy.  I’m a law of attraction expert.  I’ve had therapy, done yoga and mediation.  I consider myself self-aware, spiritual, and in touch with my body and emotions.

Even so, until I became aware that I was using decoys, I had no idea of the extent to which I was trying to avoid negative feelings. 

Emotion avoiding it turns out is not always a conscious process.

I’ve discovered that the decoys I use most often are food, anxiety, worry, Facebook, Netflix, and believe it or not, finding better feeling thoughts.

Many people are familiar with the idea that eating, smoking, drinking, and even over-working can be distractions.  But they are not aware that a lot of the mental activities we engage in are often distractions too.

Some Common Physical Decoys:

  • Overeating
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Shopping
  • Watching lots of TV (or Netflix)
  • Surfing the Web
  • Social Media
  • Reading a lot of fiction
  • Overworking
  • Over exercising 
  • Overscheduling yourself 

Some Common Mental Decoys:

  • Worry
  • Anxiety  (Anxiety is not an emotion.  It is usually covering up fear or sadness)
  • Perfectionism
  • Finding Better Feeling Thoughts
  • Thinking about the past or future
  • Obsessing about your to-do-list
  • Beating yourself up/ self-criticism
  • Pain (Pain is physical but the process by which it is created is mental – and unconscious)

 You may be wondering after reading this list (as many of my clients do) if there is anything you do that is not a decoy! 

After all, we all have to eat.  Exercising is good for us, and isn’t it great to be productive? 

Well, yes and no. 

The way to distinguish when your productivity or any of these activities is a decoy is that when you’re using it to avoid feeling, you will feel like you’re craving it.  You may also notice a sense of ease once you start using a decoy. 

In contrast, non-decoy activities are easy to walk away from and pick back up when you’re inspired.

So who cares?  What’s the problem with using decoys?

There are 2 main problems with using decoys.

The first is that doing any of the things on this list excessively can have negative physical repercussions.  Over eating, over exercising, over working and worry all affect our bodies, some in more obvious ways than others.

When we are engaging an activity to cover up an emotion, we lose control over it.  Feeling the emotion is just too threatening. 

We may be able to employ will-power to decrease use of our decoy, or substitute one decoy for another, but until we learn how to allow and feel our emotions we will NEED our decoys. 

The second problem with using decoys is that if we’re using a decoy, we’re not feeling a valuable emotion

Our emotions are guidance and communication from our soul. 

They provide us with valuable information about how we are living our lives. In order to navigate our day to day experiences successfully, in order to create radiant health and abundance in all areas, we must be able to feel our emotions.

So, what can you do about decoys?

There are 4 steps to working successfully with decoys.

Step 1:  Identify what they are.

Start noticing the activities that you use frequently that you have a sense of needing to do.  Sometimes these are activities that feel self-destructive.  You may be beating yourself up for doing them (ie. overeating, smoking, drinking, etc.).

Step 2: Notice When You’re Using Them

Don’t force yourself to stop using your decoys.  The most effective way to work with them is just to notice you’re using them.

Step 3: Ask “What am I feeling?”

You don’t have to get an answer.  Just asking the question will begin to shift your awareness.  Once you are aware of the fact that you are using decoys to cover up emotion they will start to lose their effectiveness. 

Step 4: Learn how to feel and process emotions.

This is the most important step and the one that will take some time.

One way to ease into feeling emotions is to get out of your head and notice the physical sensations in your body.  What many people think of as emotions are actually thoughts about emotions.

Start slowly.  Notice your decoy and then notice the sensations in your body.

Recognize that you’ve probably been avoiding feeling emotions for most of your adult life – and with good reason.  So be gentle with yourself and get some support

The process of reconnecting with your emotions is well worth the effort!   You will likely experience levels of freedom, peace, self-acceptance and joy that you didn’t even think were possible.

And, when you are in touch with and able to feel your emotions, you won’t need your decoys anymore. 

Here’s Your Assignment:

Make a list of your decoys – what you do to avoid negative feelings.  Catching onto yourself is kinda fun!

Lorraine FaehndrichLorraine Faehndrich is a transformational life and health coach and the founder of Radiant Life Design.  She offers classes and private coaching sessions to women all over the world to help them relieve pain and anxiety, overcome body image issues, create vibrant health and experience success in all areas of their lives. 

Her powerful coaching will help 
you fall in love with yourself, reclaim your purpose and passion, heal 
your body, and live an authentic, empowered, radiantly healthy life.

Lorraine has created an easy and relaxing way to connect the body and mind with her complementary Allowing Relaxation Guided Meditation – The Magic and Power of Awareness. 


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About the Author

Natalie Hill is a Transformational Coach for women entrepreneurs. She loves empowering women to bust through their blocks so they can be who they were born to be. Contact Natalie at Google+

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