Let’s think about the differences between DWELL and AVOID. For this exercise we will look at the definitons provided by Merriam-Webster.

Dwell- Merriam-Webster.com

to keep the attention directed —used with on or upon

tried not to dwell on my fears

to speak or write insistently —used with on or upon

reporters dwelling on the recent scandal

Avoid– Merriam-Webster.com

to keep away from SHUN

They have been avoiding me.

to prevent the occurrence or effectiveness of

avoid further delays

to refrain from

avoid overeating

Have you ever dwelled on something? My Mom is a classic dweller. She can take a topic and beat it to death. She still has things from forty years ago that she manages to bring up in conversation on a regular basis. I have learned to avoid certain words and phrases when dealing with her because I know she’ll just get lost in the dwell.

What are some common themes that people dwell upon?

Do you dwell on the regular?

Now let’s look at avoid. My Husband is a classic avoider. If you don’t say something, it won’t happen (sort of the opposite of Field of Dreams if you build it…). He will talk and walk around pretty much any subject he doesn’t feel like dealing with. I have to figure out ways to get him to talk about harsh realities and sometimes the not so harsh ones.

What are subjects/situations that people tend to avoid?

Do you veer towards avoidance?

Neither avoiding nor dwelling is good in the long run. Both choices tend to stop us from getting on with our lives- they cement us in a spot and stop growth and change and being able to get to the next step.

But how do we avoid being a dweller or an avoider? What are the steps we can take to stop us from going down either of these paths?

Is there anything good about dwelling or avoiding? Are there circumstances where these are the best courses of action?


44 thoughts on “To Dwell or To Avoid

  1. I have to mentally drag myself away from certain subjects. I’m pretty focused on AI right now. I use running and gardening and being outside to change the subject. My husband is an avoider of talking about unpleasant things like bills and the future. I try not to bother him unless it’s really necessary.

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  2. Sometimes life has a funny way of handing you a different situation according to health, circumstances and you have no choice but to learn what you avoid: for example, getting a crash course in paying the bills and times because you happen to be there and you learn. I guess this is good for the avoider because if you don’t know how the bills go, you will be in the dark and as for being a dweller, sometimes you have no choice but to move forward. Hmm, good thoughts for the morning.

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  3. I used to be a dweller but have actively worked to step away from that way of being. Learn from things, but then move on. I think though that sometimes people will judge others as dwellers and I’m not sure where the line is crossed? I think it might be in the fact that you can still bring up something from the past, but in needs to be in the context that you have learned from that thing and now moved on from it- not the constant reliving and worrying about it. The ex was a huge avoider. Anything uncomfortable to him means he shut down. I also think that he viewed people talking about tough topics meant that they wanted him to be empathetic or solve their problems. He didn’t understand the concept of just listening or that he wasn’t being asked to take sole responsibility to fix the issue. I rarely avoid anything anymore. The elephant in the room is going to be talked about if you’re with me!

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    1. It’s funny. As a rule I’m not an avoider. However, if I’m with my mother I will consciously avoid certain topics because I just don’t want to go down the rabbit hole. I’ve gotten better at not dwelling, but it takes active thinking about it

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  4. I think depending on circumstances we all do both. We avoid things sometimes and now and then we dwell. Some things are unavoidable. But there are certainly people who dwell too much on old business. I have a friend who has been divorced for years and she still dwells on being angry at her ex spouse. To me that’s unproductive. Then again, I have another friend who lost a child. She’s never gotten over that loss. I understand her inability to move on. I don’t know that I could get over losing a child either. So I suppose it depends on the circumstances whether we avoid or dwell. We all survive the best way we can.
    Our brains often protect us from sadness or loss and so people deal with things the best way they can.

    My life thus far, has been quite a journey. I have never been an avoider. However , back when I was in school I know that I put off doing some homework assignments until the last minute. But generally I’ve always faced things. And I tend to work my best when I’m given a deadline.

    I do find that when you get sick, most people are uncomfortable with that diagnosis . Since I began my cancer journey many people can’t deal with the fact that I have a recurring illness where there is no cure yet. They can’t handle that reality and want it all to just go away. And while I’d love that it’s not being realistic. I’m a realistic person. I face things head on and then do what I need to do. For instance I made sure my funeral plans were handled so when my time comes my kids don’t have to stress about that. I have a neighbor who didn’t do any of that and her children came down and were shocked they were left with incredibly high burial fees. I would never do that to anyone.
    So I think we just have to be realistic about life and our responsibilities.

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  5. I tend to dwell on issues instead of letting them go. For example, I lost a night’s sleep after I accidentally threw away a Costco gift card. I ran over and over in my mind how I could have done that. Yet, the next morning I called Costco and they told me to come down and they’d give me a new card! I avoid confrontation. I was surprised to see “shun” with avoid. To me they have different meanings.

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  6. Dwelling on things goes with being Italian! How’s the gravy? Is this good wine?
    But seriously, there are some things we are conditioned to dwell on, some good and some not worthwhile. Health, for instance. We dwell on this to an extent that with some becomes too extreme. But we walk, watch our diet…and do it constantly. But to dwell to excess is not good. You need to learn to let go.
    Avoidance is basically the same thing. There are things we need to avoid, and that’s good. Maybe just being careful about things is a better way to put it. But, again, how we deal with it is important. To avoid because of fear can be good, if the fear is rational. To fear and avoid an alligator for example, or for some to fear heights. But it too can be carried to an extreme and that is not good.

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  7. The word dwell is interesting if you think about its meaning related to a “dwelling” People that dwell on something build a house on that issue and shut themselves inside or keep coming back to it. From that perspective, dwelling doesn’t seem to be a very positive thing!

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  8. Good subject! I agree that both can be bad in the long run. In some cases though I think avoiding things is the way to go. What I mean by that is what you said about not bringing up certain subjects around your mom, for what good is it going to do?
    I admit I don’t like talking about unpleasant subjects and try ro avoid thsm but I know its necessary at times. But other times, if it’s not going to help anything and just cause people to be upset than why bring it up? On the other hand avoiding the elephant in the room isn’t going to make it go away.

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  9. My mom is the queen of “let’s dwell on this topic until it’s been beaten to death.” I used to handle it by avoiding frequent conversations with her. These days I find a way to switch the subject, most times successfully. When I can’t, then I use an excuse as to why I need to get off the phone. I think this is exactly why I’m inclined to be more of an avoider.

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  10. To prevent avoidance or dwelling behaviour requires self-awareness. Any time you catch yourself in either place, reflect on the situation (journal if that’s your thing) and try to get to the bottom of what’s going on. In other words, allow yourself to feel the emotions behind the behaviour, give yourself some time to live with and feel them, before moving on (if dwelling) or taking action (if avoidance).

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  11. We all have these aspects of human beingness within us to varying degrees. I was a classic avoider, and dweller, and now it’s much less, though I still fall back into these same personality traits when I am in a breakdown or worried about something. The issue? It’s not helpful. Dwelling and avoiding only increase our stress levels, instead of reducing them by taking action on that which we are avoiding and or dwelling on.

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  12. I’ll take an example from my own life: dwelling can be positive if you’re manifesting. I dwelled for a long time on the idea of uprooting my life and starting fresh in Wisconsin, and lo and behold, all that focused attention and energy made it happen!

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  13. Is dwelling the same as ruminating? I’m a ruminator, but I’m learning to not be. I think the key to not dwelling or avoiding is to stay in the present, because with both, the dweller seems to stuck in the past, and avoider seem to be trying to move past the present.

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