Avalanching: What it is and How to Avoid it in Your Relationships

Do you find yourself overreacting to small issues or avoiding conflicts altogether? If so, you might be experiencing a phenomenon known as avalanching.
Avalanching: What it is and How to Avoid it in Your Relationships Avalanching: What it is and How to Avoid it in Your Relationships
Avalanching: What it is and How to Avoid it in Your Relationships
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Avalanching can overwhelm your partner, create unrealistic expectations, and sabotage the potential for a healthy and lasting bond. In this article, we will explore what causes avalanching, how it affects your relationships, and how you can avoid it 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your emotions in a relationship? Do you find yourself overreacting to small issues or avoiding conflicts altogether? If so, you might be experiencing a phenomenon known as avalanching.

Avalanching is a term coined by Dr. Joseph Shay to describe the tendency of some people to either explode or shut down when they feel insecure or threatened in their relationships. 

Avalanching can happen in any type of relationship, whether it’s romantic, familial, or platonic, and it can have negative consequences for both the individual and the relationship.

When people feel insecure, they may resort to one of two coping strategies: pursuing or withdrawing. Image source: Freepik

Why do People Avalanche?

According to Dr. Shay, avalanching is a result of attachment insecurity, which is the fear of losing or being rejected by a loved one. Attachment insecurity can stem from various factors, such as childhood trauma, past relationship experiences, or current stressors.

When people feel insecure, they may resort to one of two coping strategies: pursuing or withdrawing. Pursuers are those who seek more closeness and reassurance from their partners, often by expressing their feelings, needs, and complaints. Withdrawers are those who distance themselves from their partners, often by hiding their feelings, avoiding conflicts, and shutting down emotionally.

Both strategies are attempts to protect oneself from the pain of rejection or abandonment, but they can also backfire and create more problems. 

Pursuers may come across as needy, clingy, or demanding, which can push their partners away. Withdrawers may come across as cold, distant, or indifferent, which can make their partners feel unloved or unimportant.

How Does Avalanching Affect Your Relationship?

Avalanching can affect your relationship in various ways, depending on how you and your partner cope with insecurity and stress. Some of the common effects of avalanching are:

  • Lack of trust and intimacy: When you avalanche, you either overwhelm your partner with your emotions or shut them out completely. This can make your partner feel that you don’t trust them or value their presence.
  • Increased conflict and resentment: When you avalanche, you either overreact to small issues or avoid them altogether. This can create a cycle of conflict and resentment that can damage your relationship.
  • Reduced satisfaction and happiness: When you avalanche, you either compromise on your needs or withdraw from your partner. This can make you feel unhappy and dissatisfied with your relationship. 

How to Avoid Avalanching

The good news is that avalanching is not a permanent or fixed trait. It is a learned behavior that can be changed with awareness, communication, and therapy. Here are some steps you can take to avoid avalanching and improve your relationships:

Recognize Your Attachment Style and Patterns

Are you a pursuer or a withdrawer? How do you react when you feel insecure or threatened in your relationships? What triggers your insecurity or fear? How does your behavior affect your partner and your relationship? 

Being aware of your own attachment style and patterns can help you understand yourself and your partner better, and prevent you from acting on impulse or habit.

Express Your Emotions and Needs in a Constructive Way

Instead of exploding or shutting down, try to communicate your emotions and needs in a calm and respectful way. Use “I” statements to describe how you feel and what you want, without blaming or criticizing your partner. 

For example, instead of saying “You never listen to me, you don’t care about me at all”, you can say “I feel hurt and ignored when you don’t pay attention to what I’m saying, I need you to listen to me and show me that you care”. 

Expressing your emotions and needs in a constructive way can help you and your partner understand each other better, and find solutions that work for both of you.

This can create a cycle of conflict and resentment that can damage your relationship. Image source: Freepik

Seek Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes, avalanching can be a sign of deeper issues, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. If you find yourself struggling with avalanching or other relationship problems, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. 

A therapist can help you identify and heal the root causes of your insecurity, teach you coping skills and communication techniques, and guide you and your partner to build a stronger and healthier relationship.

Final Thoughts on Avalanching 

Avalanching is a common but harmful phenomenon that can damage your relationships and your well-being. 

By recognizing your attachment style and patterns, expressing your emotions and needs in a constructive way, and seeking professional help if needed, you can avoid avalanching and improve your relationships. 

Remember, you are not alone, and you can change. With the right support and effort, you can overcome your insecurity and fear, and enjoy more fulfilling and satisfying relationships.

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