Stop Avoiding Stuff, by Matthew S. Boone, Jennifer Gregg, and Lisa W. Coyne, tackles avoidance using techniques from acceptance and commitment therapy. It teaches microskills that you can use as alternatives to avoidance, and suggests teeny tiny practices along the way.
The book starts off with a look at what avoidance is and why we do it. It doesn’t chastise people for avoiding, and acknowledges that the behaviour continues because it accomplished a purpose at some point and helped you to gain a bit of control. However, the avoidance and attempts at control can end up getting in the way of actually living.
Mindfulness is approached with the same kind of realistic attitude. “If you do an image search on your favorite search engine, you’ll get a bazillion pictures of beautiful people sitting in the lotus position, looking blissful and serene. Those images don’t always square with people’s lived experience of mindfulness.” Sounds about right!
I liked the authors’ approach to emotions. They explain that “emotions are information, not enemies.” The problem is that we tend to respond to them as if they’re literal threats, and then avoid based on the fear of potential emotions. The book talks about how to work through the different parts of an emotion to help isolate it from all the other crap we tend to pile on top. Readers are encouraged to feel an emotion rather than fight or feed it.
Willingness is also discussed, and it’s described as an openness to whatever shows up. It’s neither wanting nor controlling/avoiding. It’s about taking actions, even though they’re uncomfortable, that will contribute to the life that you want to live., and strategies are offered to help with actually doing that.
The book also talks about evaluating thoughts, not in terms of good or bad, but in terms of workability. How is it actually serving you? Other topics include what we can and can’t control (for instance, we can’t control our immediate thoughts and feelings), the self-stories that we create, gratitude, and thinking traps (cognitive distortions).
The book has short chapters, which are further broken up into sections, making it impaired concentration-friendly. The book is written in a casual, friendly tone that’s not therapist speak-ish, and everything is framed in very real world terms. I thought this book did a really good job of tackling the topic of avoidance.
Stop Avoiding Stuff is available on Amazon.
I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.
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