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Self-Expression and Avoidance

Do you know people who are very difficult to judge, who have a poker face? They are practically ‘unreadable’. It is the expression of an avoidance strategy which controls self-expression behaviour. This creates insecurity in the social environment, or even mistrust, great caution, antipathy and withdrawal. If people have been frequently dominated, misunderstood, emotionally abused, left without resonance and have had interactions with inauthentic caregivers, they have to seek ways and means to offer less material that others can ‘misuse’. This keeps their own confusion, shame or fears in limits, and also keeps others at a distance. In counselling, people who use such strategies are usually very fearful of being seen through. They also have great fear of being embarrassed because they feel clumsy when in contact and know that they are lacking something. Often, though, the fear that the other person might become important, also plays a role. The disinterest manifested in the body language is then an avoidance of possible closeness. In any case as – you can already see this from these clues – it is wrong to move too close to such people, to confront them or to intrude upon them. Particularly here, sensitivity is required, as well as careful exploration of shared harmonising possibilities. This is often easier by asking ‘pertinent questions’ about occupation and action competences, rather than on the immediate relationship level.

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