Avoid something, and it becomes scarier. Fear generates defensive walls that get bigger until it seems a giant monster hides behind them.

– The “King Kong Effect”

Those who have experienced strong avoidance or addictive behavior sometimes say it feels completely unable to control, like something has taken over that they are unable to restrain. I and my clients have found that if you increase the quantity of “deciding for yourself” moments, you decrease the quantity of fear, avoidance and addictive moments.

Stay Strong to Avoid Kong

I dreamed of a good and evil wolf inside me, and asked the wise one, “Which wolf will win?” The wise one replied: “The one you feed.”

– Parable of the Wolf

The frequency of seemingly uncontrollable addictive and avoidance behaviors lessens dramatically by practicing simple “choosing” exercises, such as intentionally opening a social media app then closing it before giving the contents any attention.

On the one hand, this is an example of “priming”, increasing your awareness of desirable solutions to expected issues. But more powerfully, free will is turned on, which turns fear and cravings off. You are feeding the “Good Wolf”.

The most powerful part of this practice for me personally was realizing that not doing what I knew I should be doing was the single most powerful cause of anxiety and addiction behavior, even beyond physical problems and extreme interpersonal stress. Activating craving and addiction turns off self-autonomy—high executive function—the ability to “decide for yourself” what to do.

Different parts of the brain have been mapped to different ways of perceiving. The fear and problem-focused part of yourself perceives in terms of fight or flight, cravings or addictions. This is one reason why avoidance (procrastinating) leads to addictive behaviors: to avoidance activates fear and craving, which shuts off “decide for myself” perception.

Fear and craving can also be activated due to low hydration, low blood sugar, too little sleep, too many distractions, and other cause of stress, trauma or focusing on trauma. But I have found nothing more powerful to keep fear and craving at bay than regularly doing simple “decide for myself” exercises.