In the throes of a depressive episode, my therapist lobbed a question that detonated in my mind.
“What are you avoiding?”
A question that seemed innocuous at first, but it was like a grenade, exploding and reshaping my understanding of my psyche.
So, let’s strap into our carbon fiber submarine and plunge into the murky depths of avoidance, especially as it pertains to us, the watchers on the wall of information security, who may not always follow the best practices we know we should.
The Psychology of Avoidance
On the psychological battlefield, avoidance is a defense mechanism, a deliberate act of retreating from tasks, situations, or emotions perceived as challenging, uncomfortable, or threatening.
It’s like a foxhole, providing temporary shelter from the barrage of immediate distress or anxiety. But what if this foxhole is not just a byproduct of depression but a means of evading another, less palatable feeling?
Avoidance is a double-edged sword, temporarily relieving distress, but its long-term consequences can devastate our mental well-being. In shying away from challenging tasks or emotions, we rob ourselves of opportunities to learn, grow, and develop resilience.
For me, this has led to stagnation, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
Within depression and anxiety, avoidance often plays a significant role. It can be a symptom or coping mechanism of these mental health conditions. Recognizing the connection between avoidance and mental health is crucial. It’s not a character flaw but a response to more profound struggles.
Now, let’s shift our focus to how the hell this applies to working in tech.
Procrastination and task avoidance are common manifestations of avoidance. It’s not uncommon to find ourselves putting off important tasks, projects, or even cybersecurity risks that we know require attention and effort.
Avoidance as a Service
Today more than ever, distractions are abundant and easily accessible. Digital avoidance refers to the act of using technology as a means to escape or avoid tasks that require concentration, effort, or discomfort.
Social media, email, or mindless browsing can become convenient outlets for avoiding important work.
The siren song of doom-scrolling has brought many a sailor to crash on the proverbial reef.
The Impact of Avoidance on Cybersecurity
In cybersecurity, avoidance can be as dangerous as a Trojan, silently creating blind spots in our threat landscape. It’s like an unspoken threat actor, quietly undermining our defenses and hindering our professional growth and development.
Here’s the kicker: embracing discomfort, as daunting as it may seem, can catalyze growth and improvement. It’s like stepping into the ring with a formidable opponent. Yes, it’s challenging, and yes, it might hurt a bit. But the lessons learned, and the skills honed in that ring can lead to valuable insights and enhanced knowledge.
Finding a balance between self-care and pushing through discomfort is as crucial as keeping the coffee pot full during incident response.
It’s about knowing when to recharge and when to move forward, when to retreat for a moment of respite, and when to tackle the challenges head-on.
By recognizing and addressing these avoidance patterns in my life and career, I’ve enhanced my productivity, expanded my skill set, and contributed to a more secure digital landscape.
Consider this your invitation to reflect on your own avoidance patterns. Identify areas in tech productivity where you tend to sidestep risks or challenging tasks. It’s like performing a self-audit, a necessary step towards fortifying your defenses.
Here are the strategies that I use regularly to combat avoidance:
- Embrace the Discomfort: View challenging tasks as opportunities for growth. Engaging with complex tasks is the path to learning and improving.
- Break it Down: Large tasks can seem daunting. Break them down into smaller, manageable tasks to make them less intimidating.
- Prioritize Tasks: Not all tasks are created equal. Identify the most critical tasks and tackle them first.
- Set Realistic Goals: Setting unattainable goals can lead to avoidance. Make sure goals are challenging yet achievable.
- Seek Support: If a task is too challenging, don’t hesitate to seek help. Collaborating with others can provide new perspectives and make the task more manageable.
- Just Start: Analytical paralysis keeps us from even beginning. Just start, nevermind perfection. Pivoting and editing are all part of the process.
Remember, we’re all human, and it’s okay to have flaws and make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and use them as stepping stones towards growth and improvement.
After all, we’re all on this journey together.