One of the joys of teaching is when your student teaches you. As of this writing (June), Nancy Thompson is nearing completion of her Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification Course. I credit her with having taught me the following lesson about aversion.
During the course I teach that aversion is an emotion and that emotions are messages from our subconscious mind. Aversion’s message is that we lack familiarity with the person, subject or situation. And that the proper response to this emotion is to gain greater familiarity.
Nancy pushed back saying that there are times when she doesn’t want greater familiarity, that she does indeed want to distance herself from the person, subject or situation. She also stated that she viewed aversion as protection. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I wasn’t being clear about the distinction between an emotion and a conscious choice.
The aversion emotion is an automatic reaction. We meet a person who is instantly off-putting, we are drawn into a discussion on a topic that we find distasteful or we feel that we’re being pulled into a situation that isn’t to our liking.
In these situations aversion is a natural, emotional response. It’s at times like these that we want to remind ourselves that our aversion may simply be the result of a lack of familiarity. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
Often when we get to know the person, to learn more about the topic or allow ourselves to gain experience in a new situation, we find that as familiarity grows aversion wanes. Plus we learn things that will benefit us in the future.
When additional familiarity doesn’t reduce our aversion, we enter the realm of aversion as a conscious choice.
After you’ve set aside the emotion of aversion and explored the reasons for the emotional reaction you may find that:
- The person’s values and yours are not aligned.
- The person is trying to pick your brain instead of compensating you for your knowledge.
- The person is abusive.
- The person enjoys being a victim precluding any opportunity to help them and potentially drawing you into the abyss of their victimology.
- The subject simply doesn’t interest you. While you know there’s something to be learned if you look for ways to apply what you learn to everyday living, the interest isn’t there.
- The situation doesn’t help you grow personally or professionally and you decide not to be drawn into similar situations.
These are perfectly legitimate choices for you to make…once you’ve set aside the emotion and objectively evaluated the reasons for your aversion. At that point you’re in a position to make a conscious decision about whether to avoid the person, subject or situation in the future.
The distinction here, the one that Nancy fostered with her statement, is that there’s a difference between reacting to an emotion and making a conscious, well-reasoned choice.
When you experience aversion pause. Explore the reasons for your aversion by becoming more familiar with the person, subject or situation. More often than not, you’ll discover your aversion is ill-founded. As a result you’ll gain a relationship, greater skills and abilities or you’ll become more comfortable in a previously uncomfortable situation.
If you find that familiarity doesn’t produce these results, then make a conscious decision to avoid future encounters. It’s a reasonable thing to do. Aversion based on emotion is not.
For our kids
As you observe the kids in your life averting people or things based on emotion, share with them the distinction between emotional aversion and conscious choice. Encourage them to become familiar before making a choice. Share with them the benefits you gain when you set aside the emotion of aversion and seek the benefits familiarity affords.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your wisdom in a comment below.
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