Afraid to take action


Afraid to take action


your avatar   Peacock (27 year-old woman)

Let me begin by saying I am not an American, so there may be a little cultural difference.

When I make a little silly mistake, and should take action to do something about it, I have a lot of difficulty. For example, I might try to send an email explaining my mistake to another person who is involved, but I keep delaying it. I think the reason for this is that I am afraid of people's reactions, or sometimes I feel embarrassed about the stupid thing I did. This problem exists even if I did not make a mistake, it can happen even if I should tell someone what I want or want to do. There are two basic results of my non-action: 1. Another person ends up making my decisions for me, or 2. If it is a problem, I end up making the situation worse.

I feel it is hard to live how I want to, and sometimes difficult to survive if I keep avoiding important issues as well as trivial ones this way. Sometimes my non-action comes from indecisiveness and sometimes just a fear of being pointed at by others. I wonder how everybody else is able to confront their issues that range from important individual decisions to other minor problems.

I did meet some people who encouraged me and fostered my independence whom I loved very much, but then I also met people who were against such an attitude. They did not like the people who encouraged me, and did not like what I had to express when I was around them. I even had the experience of breaking up with those encouraging nice people because I felt pressured by ones who were discouraging.

In my childhood, I had a tendency of avoiding stressful situations by staying in my daydreams or imagination. This never resolved my problems. Now I am always afraid of taking action to resolve things when there is a problem.

Is the only thing I can do to actually practice and experience taking action for solution? Any suggestion will be appreciated.


    Andy Bernay-Roman,

Dear Peacock,

It sounds to me like right now there's nothing too small for you to trip over and ruminate about, and that it doesn't take facing much of a decision to get your thoughts spinning. I'm sure it's no fun to live like that. You're right in your last comment: that actually practicing and experiencing taking action are important to break through your self-inhibiting style. But that' not all you can do, and may not be enough to end this on-going cycle of self-doubt.

I believe you're somehow carrying around within you a cluster of non-integrated feelings that generate lots of cluttered, ambiguous, anxious thoughts that find no resolution. Because thoughts cannot bring resolution to feelings, answering your specific questions about who's right, and what's right to do may not be such a fruitful approach. Instead, I think you need help focusing on the feelings that generate your avoidance style of living. These feelings, like your ambiguous thoughts, have no comfort in them. You go back and forth between two unpleasant, almost unworkable extremes. You lose at either end. I suspect that at the core of these anxious responses there reside painful feelings that have robbed you of a healthy self-confidence. Feelings about not being good enough, or about not getting love no matter what you do or whom you try to please, or something along those lines. Your avoidance of confrontations or decisions is an attempt to escape that pain. I'm here to tell you, there is no shortcut around that pain. Feeling it is the shortcut, and you may need a therapist's help to accomplish that safely.

That you would succumb to the pressure of those who discourage you, and shy away from those who encourage you, confirms my belief that you are avoiding inner pain. Sometimes being with encouraging people doesn't end inner pain, but rather seems to accentuate it. Imprinted pain from childhood, as carried around encapsulated internally (yet outside of consciousness), cannot be healed by the present, no matter how positive the people or circumstances. Inner pain can be healed in the present by making room in consciousness to feel it. Again, you'll probably need the help of a therapist to get to that, because your own defense system may not be able to let down long enough on its own for this to be effectively overthrown and dissolved.

Confrontations and decisions are not meant to paralyze us, but rather to stimulate our growth as people. As you heal your pains in the matter, you can also learn specific skills in dealing with difficult situations. Like how to say no, how to handle people's disappointments or criticisms, without it tapping into some core sense of wrongness about yourself. A therapist can help you gain those skills as you come out of your pain. When inner pains get integrated, interpersonal skills come easy. Without the integration of inner pain, interpersonal skills end up requiring a lot of mental work, and just end up masking anxiety rather than resolving it.

In your letter you demonstrate an awareness that it's not just the situations that make you anxious, but it's something you're bringing into the picture that does. That's a good beginning! Go further and heal this all the way!


Andy Bernay-Roman

This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.For more information visit:

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