We all have moments in our lives when we just want to disappear and run away from our troubles, even if it’s only for a few hours. Most of us just forget about them and try to move on. Others, however, engage in activities that help them escape reality.
Escapism often has a negative ring to it, but when applied appropriately, it can actually be helpful in a number of ways. In this article, we will discuss escapism and its effects, both the positive and the negative.
What is Escapism?
Cambridge Dictionary defines escapism as the activity of avoiding reality by imagining exciting but impossible activities. An escapist is someone who tends to live in their fantasy world more often than in the real world to dodge their problems. Diversions such as gaming, traveling, daydreaming, or drinking alcohol are some ways people cope with their difficulties.
So, is escapism helpful or harmful? While some consider it as just a simple way to get respite from your daily routine, others think it takes you too far from reality. To strike a balance between the pros and the cons, knowing your limits is vital. Unchecked, escapism would quickly become detrimental to you. On the other hand, a good form of escapism would help you grow as an individual and be more productive.
What Are the Effects of Escapism?
At first, you might not even realize you’ve been opting for the escape route to get away from your hardships. It’s a subtle shift in the decisions you make, and your mind convinces you that you are doing the right thing. To an extent, you are, but if you don’t keep it in check, you will eventually drift further away from reality.
Reading a book, listening to music, playing video games, or watching movies are all fabulous ways to take some time off and recharge your batteries. But once you start spending more time on these things rather than your responsibilities, you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good.
Heavily relying on escapism to cope with your problems can lead to depression, self-doubt, and self-destruction. Also, you can seriously damage your health when you indulge in negative forms of escapism like binge eating, alcoholism, and smoking.
Examples of Escapism
Our mind is very creative and can come up with unique ways to take us away from the present. Some of the common examples of escapism are:
Drugs enable us to experience a different reality. Many people take drugs to feel good and cope with daily stress. It may seem that way at first, but that euphoria will soon pass.
Over time, the addiction gets so bad that it becomes difficult to come out of the fantasy world. It destroys one’s ability to think straight and reason. Drugs may temporarily take you away from your worries, but they add more problems in your life in the long run. They can severely affect your mental and physical health.
Eating too much
A lot of people turn to food for comfort and to get through their problems. For some, eating their favorite meal at a restaurant would do the trick.For others, a simple homemade dish is enough.
Generally, junk food and sweets are known to release happy hormones in our bodies. Treating yourself to these food items once in a while is fine, but relying on them every time a problem arises is damaging. Emotional eating occurs when people use food as a coping mechanism to relieve stress. If it isn’t controlled, it can lead to overeating which can result in obesity, diabetes, and impaired brain function.
Playing a sport encourages a healthy lifestyle. We feel alive when we experience the adrenaline rush it brings. Taking part in a team sport also gives us a sense of belonging. It’s a perfect way to fight depression and reduce aggression.
But overdoing it and eventually cutting yourself off from your family and social circle can be a negative result of this form of escapism. A balanced approach is necessary for maintaining mental and physical well-being.
Involving yourself in your work has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s a productive way to take your mind off your personal problems. But, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. When your life only revolves around your work, you lose yourself in the process.
Also, totally ignoring your relationships only makes things worse. The company of family and friends is crucial to living a fulfilled life. Work should not dominate your life to the point that you are unable to maintain your social relations and hamper your physical health and mental stability. Ask yourself, are you working to live or living to work?
All of these examples, both negative and positive, originate from an inner void of some kind. As mentioned, escapism only occurs as a coping mechanism to evade reality. It’s always a good idea to escape once in a while to reset your focus and de-stress, but once it becomes more than that, you’ll have to rethink where your life is headed.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”Seth Godin
“The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.”Albert Einstein
“Escapism isn’t good or bad in itself. What is important is what you are escaping from and where you are escaping to.”Terry Pratchett
“Paradise was always over there, a day’s sail away. But it’s a funny thing, escapism. You can go far and wide and you can keep moving on and on through places and years, but you never escape your own life. I, finally, knew where my life belonged. Home.”J. Maarten Troost
“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”James Joyce
“The surest way to escape anxiety and defeat despair is action. Do, don’t dwell.”Michael Josephson
“No one can escape life’s pain. That’s life.”Pierce Brosnan
“For intelligent people, action often means escape from thought, but it is a reasonable and a wise escape.”Andre Maurois
“If you escape from people too often, you wind up escaping from yourself.”Marvin Gaye
“There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.”Roland Barthes
“We spend more time developing means of escaping our troubles than we do solving the troubles we’re trying to escape from.”David Lloyd
“People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing…Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality.”Neil Gaiman
“No idea can succeed except at the expense of sacrifice; no one ever escapes without enduring strain from the struggle of life.”Ernest Renan
“You can not escape a prison if you do not know you’re in one.”Vernon Howard
“It was a great escape for me and it was a way to take a break from what was going on in my own world, to go into another world.”Alice Hoffman
“The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he’s in prison.”Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”Terry Pratchett
“The best way to escape from your problem is to solve it.”Robert Anthony
“If you should escape the censure of others, hope not to escape your own.”Henry Home
Frequently Asked Questions About Escapism
- Is escapism a bad coping mechanism?
Escapism is dangerous if we overindulge in a particular activity. You cannot solve your problems by completely ignoring them. However, using escapism to discover yourself and your strengths can be an excellent coping skill. The key is moderation and knowing your limits.
- What triggers escapism?
In difficult situations and circumstances, our mind chooses between a fight or flight response. Escapism is an example of a flight response that signals our mind to block out our current reality. To do so, we pick up an escape activity. Fear, stress, pain, and disappointments all encourage escapism as a way to cope.
- How do you stop escapism?
Escapism can become an addiction that can cause self-harm. It’s essential to identify the root cause and address it. Taking up a positive form of escapism like exercise, reading a book, and listening to music can help you overcome a bad one, but if you can afford it,seeking help from a professional is the best option. Professionals are better able to help you in the long term.
The modern world is indeed very taxing and demanding, be it your personal or work life. In this day and age, stress, anxiety, and depression are so common that people rely on escapism to cope with these problems. It only helps when you engage in positive activities and do them in moderation. Using negative coping mechanisms such as drug use, smoking, drinking, and gambling can have long term detrimental effects on your life.
In the end, keep in mind that addiction to anything is bad for you. Use the escape route only to refresh yourself and come back stronger to tackle your difficulties.
What are your favorite quotes about escapism? Have any others you’d add to the list? Comment below!
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