When faced with problems or trials do you avoid or overreact? Dr. Todd Mulliken explains why neither is a healthy response.

“When we avoid the mess, we carry the mess, and when we run to things that are true and lovely and life-giving, that’s when the answers come. Avoiding something is just as unhealthy as overreacting to it.”

How does that statement practically play out in your life and your relationships?

“The avoiding-type of personality thinks they’re dating somebody or they’re married to somebody or they’re a friend with someone that’s up and down – they kind of get huffy sometimes.”

“Well, people express their feelings. They have to make sure they’re not doing it in an intimidating way, but people are going to have ups and downs, it doesn’t mean they have bipolar disorder. One percent of the population does have bipolar, but not fifty percent of the population. So, a lot of avoidant types of people, when the person they care for is expressing their feelings towards them, they just want to avoid that.

What about the person who is actually overreacting to situations?

“The over-reactive person views their avoid-ant spouse like they’re lying to them – you’re not telling them it’s on your mind.”

So, what’s the solution when avoidance and overreaction go head to head?

“Both have to find that balance of truth and grace. The over-reactor has to regulate first before they speak to create a safe place, and the avoid-er has to just start speaking truth.”

Todd goes on to explain that, in recovery, when the avoid-ant person learns to speak truth, they become free because they’re given a voice to speak what’s going on inside.


Todd Mulliken, MS, LPCC is a counselor, author and speaker. He is the owner of Mulliken Counseling Center in Edina, Minnesota, which is a Clinic where he provides counseling for individuals, couples, and families. Todd speaks at a variety of venues including schools and churches on a number of topics related to the field of mental health.

Avoidance vs. Overreacting

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