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What Are You Trying to Avoid?

Sometimes I think we hate our lives. We do whatever we can to avoid it whether that be TV (I’m guilty), video games, booze, drugs, and whatever that distracts us from our emotions and how we experience life. This is what we consciously call escapism. This article is inspired by watching I Saw the TV Glow last night. Definitely recommend it if you like weird movies with a great moral.

Another word for escapism is avoidance. This type of avoidance leads to addiction if we are not careful. It doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to drugs, emotional eating, or addicted to your work. We use these activities to escape from what we truly need to experience. My form of escapism was leaving jobs I felt didn’t treat me fairly, only to be placed in what I perceived was the same situation.

There are plenty of examples of escapism. One can see relationships as a form of escapism. We are afraid to be alone, and so we escape from ourselves. Introverts avoid places where they have to be expressive. We dive into our work even if we don’t like it because we are afraid of the idea of poverty. Some people avoid physical labor to avoid the pain and soreness that comes with it. The problem with all this avoidance is that pain is inevitable even if we try to hide from it.

This isn’t an article demonizing why we try to escape. I think we have to give grace to the things we go through. We could be going through things that bring us unwanted negativity. We find solace in shooting folks in Call of Duty because we can’t do it in real life because… you know… morality. However, many of the things we hide from are the things we create.

It’s no wonder that most therapy is about confronting the things we don’t want to confront. People indeed need another person to help confront the things that they try to avoid. The more further folks run away, the deeper the therapist, or the person trying to help has to go. We try to remove things we don’t like from our conscious without realizing that the best thing for our well-being is to unpack them. You can say that we like going on trips without opening up our suitcases.

Our biggest enemy in this regard is the resistance we feel when we try to sit with our negative emotions. In our fast-paced world filled with work and entertainment, it’s easy to not sit with ourselves. We can easily say that we don’t have the time. If that’s not the case, we find reasons to avoid having important conversations about what is ailing us. To the point where when someone points out a flaw, we become offended. We go to great lengths to avoid ourselves.

My way to combat escapism is what some may call meditation. I kind of feel meditation is a place where we try to escape from our thoughts, but for me is to listen to what I’m thinking. Whenever my emotions are getting the best of me, I sit with my eyes closed and run through what I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. By sitting alone, I’m forced to deal with my thoughts and emotions even though it’s painful to do. I do it because this pain, much like working out, is going to help me become stronger.

Avoiding the problem will only prolong it. You can do whatever you think you need to escape it and it will be right there waiting for you. Drowning out the pain with whatever substance can give you temporary relief, but it merely masks the symptoms. The sickness is still there.

Escapism is a defense mechanism, but we have to ask ourselves, “Who are we defending?” Sitting with your pain requires courage. We’ve spent a lifetime escaping from our problems, so sitting down and solving them now isn’t going to come naturally. This is why we call meditation and tools like this a practice. The more reps we get in, the easier it becomes.