Think you’re falling into the Ostrich trap? You’re not alone. Nearly two thirds of the population would rather ignore a problem, hoping it goes away rather than addressing what’s going on. Let’s face it, who really wants to deal with the negative feelings that come with addressing a situation that isn’t going well?! The ostrich trap refers to preferring not to know. This could mean avoiding looking at your bank account to see how much you’ve spent, ignoring phone calls because you’d rather not talk, or perhaps pacifying someone and dismissing what was said to avoid an argument.
Sound like you?
Words by YK Daily's resident life coach Amira Mansour @the_communicationexpert
Usually setting goals is the easy bit, but tracking how well you’re doing not so much. This is because the desire to see how you’re doing goes against the desire to protect yourself. As humans we’re designed to avoid pain, but mastering difficult emotions and negative feelings is where the growth really happens. Whether it’s a relationship you’re staying in because you’d rather not face the loneliness of being single, or perhaps it’s talking yourself out of the promotion you know you truly deserve because, you’re fearful that you’re not good enough, this will keep you stuck exactly where you are, with little or no resolution in sight.
Ignorance isn’t always bliss. You may fear being rejected, you may fear the way people will judge, or perhaps your fear is about upsetting someone else. Your behaviour today is a result of how you’ve grown up. You may have seen negative reactions to conflict and so you’ve learnt not to address conflict as a way of ‘dealing’ with it. Make sense?
This could be internal conflict, or conflict in your relationship. Sometimes you’ll find yourself with the desire to be a confident speaker, be in a loving relationship or have financial freedom, yet you take the exact opposite actions to make this happen. This is what happens when you’re in the ostrich trap. And whilst you think this may be helpful, experts share you’re making it harder for your future self.
Ask yourself what are you avoiding today? Usually it’ll be the area of your life that makes you the most uncomfortable. For example, you could be great at dealing with conflict at work, but when it comes to your romantic relationship it’s avoid, avoid, avoid! You’re trying to fight having to face the truth, even though this may be uncomfortable in the short term, ignore it and it’s likely to cost you more discomfort in the future.
You may find that avoiding the situation, person or conflict may help calm you in that very moment, but when it happens again you’ll have to deal with the compounded effect of emotions, that will probably feel far more intensified. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s ok for there to be times where you put things off because you can’t deal with them there and then, you’re human, and knowing your capacity is key. However, in this case your intention is to come back to deal with it later, which can become unhealthy especially if you’re ignoring it and don’t anticipate coming back to find a resolution. Imagine suffering from chronic back pain, ignoring your bank statements, or feeling unloved in your relationships and letting this mount up. The longer you wait to address it the more risk you’re taking.
You can change your behaviours and start dealing with problems; you don’t have to keep repeating the ones that aren’t serving you. So here’s how you can tackle it head on, taking your head out of the sand!
Take ownership. Get your head out of the sand and look around. What aren’t you acknowledging? What is the behaviour you want to change? Bringing these thoughts into your conscious awareness allows you to change your behaviours. Write them down and read them. This allows you to fully acknowledge your notes.
Now I want you to visualise yourself in 3 years’ time, and you’ve taken no action at all. What does it feel like to be that person? What are you saying to yourself? How have your actions impacted your life? Now do the same in reverse. Visualise yourself in 3 years’ time where you’ve taken action to address your situation? What does it feel like to be that person? What are you saying to yourself? How have your actions impacted your life?
It's also important to address the negative emotions you’re trying to avoid. What are they? For example what does being single mean to you? Maybe it fills you with loneliness, or feelings of failure? Your negative self-talk is crucial here, so listen. Listen to the stories you’re telling yourself. You think you aren’t worthy, or capable or loveable. Challenge these stories and your negative internal dialogue. Where can you find evidence that this isn’t true?
And if you really want to see a change you need to do something differently. You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done. It doesn’t need to be huge or overwhelming. Perhaps it’s as simple as picking up the next incoming call, or booking a meeting with your boss to discuss that promotion. What small step can you take today to address the problem? Remember whilst we are programmed as humans to avoid emotional pain, if you ignore it today, it’ll lead to more emotional pain in the future. So choose wisely.
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