Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict
  • 1:26 Elements of Avoidance
  • 2:13 Common Examples
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

People have conflict when faced with two outcomes that are both undesirable. This lesson defines and discusses avoidance-avoidance conflicts, including those that we encounter every day.

Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict

Lora had been relatively healthy her entire life. Unfortunately, even with the state of modern health, she knew that at age 65 she might start to develop some medical problems. So, Lora went to her primary care physician and asked for a complete physical.

Sitting in the doctor's office after the exam, Lora could sense that something was wrong. Her doctor informed her that he detected a lump in her breast. Although he was going to conduct a biopsy to make sure, he was concerned that she might have breast cancer. Given her family history, Lora was concerned that she might have breast cancer, too. She knew that the whatever choices she'd be given would be undesirable; however, she would have to make a choice regardless. Lora was facing what is known as an avoidance-avoidance conflict, whereby an individual wants to avoid making a decision because the alternatives are objectionable.

After Lora's doctor received her biopsy results, he presented her with two possible courses of action. They could try to reduce the tumors using chemotherapy, or they could perform a double mastectomy and possibly avoid chemotherapy altogether. Neither decision offered a sure cure, and neither approach was going to be easy. Whether Lora chooses surgery or chemotherapy, she will experience pain. She knows that she has to make a decision, but is facing a conflict because both options have significantly negative consequences.

Elements of Avoidance

What do people default to when they have a difficult decision to make? In general, it's avoidance. The decision may be such that the individual will eventually have to make some type of call; however, many times, the longer it can be avoided the better. Avoidance of a decision does not mean that a person thinks he or she can dismiss the necessity of making a choice altogether; it can take on a variety of different elements.

For example, avoidance may allow an individual to:

  • Wait and see if he or she will have better options in the future
  • Carefully consider a decision
  • Consult the wisdom of others
  • Conduct additional research

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