What Are You Running Away From? (Dealing with Escapism)
As this is an article on Escapism, it might trigger some level of discomfort and resistance as you read it. If so, do not resist it – be aware of it, understand the source of the resistance and confront it.
Take a good look at your life now. Is there anything you are trying to avoid dealing with? Your work? Your responsibilities? Your relationships? Your singlehood if you are single? Your deteriorating health? Your poor dietary habits? Your poor exercise regime? Your lackluster financial status? Your goals? Your aspirations? Your personal issues? Your past?
Escapism in Life
Escapism occurs when you try to avoid something. It can come in different forms. Some people escape by seeking out alternate activities, such as sleeping and playing. Some drown themselves in work. Some immerse themselves in addiction, such as emotional eating (bingeing), smoking, alcohol or even drugs. Some physically run away from their homes. Some may even go as far as to migrate to a new place where they can start ‘afresh’.
In life, many people try to escape from various things. No matter what they are trying to avoid, these things ultimately ladder down to their fears, their deepest sorrows, their pains, their past, their disappointments.
In relationships, you see escapism come into play when people move into rebounds after painful breakups. Rather than deal with the situation, they seek solace in someone else. The feeling of being wanted and desired, by someone – anyone – covers up the pain of their breakup. While the person may seem to have escaped having to deal with the pain head on, in reality this wound has never been properly addressed nor healed. It just stays dormant, throbbing silently until the day where it will resurface in a different manner.
In other areas of life, you see people escaping from other things. For example, socially shy people who stay away from public spots. People who stay put in passionless jobs because they are afraid of failure in pursuing what they love or because they are afraid to know there is something far better for them elsewhere. People who avoid challenges because they are afraid of supposed ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’. People who avoid their past because they are reminded of their deepest sorrows. People who avoid their issues because they think they have no strength to face them. There are even some who basically spend their whole lives trying to escape from their issues.
Escapism by Others
I worked with many people to achieve their life goals on an ongoing basis. Some have progressive, forwarding goals. Some desire to overcome their personal issues. No matter what their objectives are, it would eventually come down to having to confront their personal limits.
In the process, it is not uncommon for some to become resistant and start displaying escapist behaviors. The level of resistance depends on the severity of the issues and the level of consciousness of the person. The deeper these issues are, the stronger the resistance; The lower their consciousness, the more they seek avoidance behaviors. It is then my job to bring them into a heightened level of self-awareness, reconnect them with that inner-self which drove them to engage a life coach in the beginning and enable them to overcome these limits.
However, there are times when their resistance and fears are so strong that their escapist personas kick in big time, to the extent where they become lost in their mental struggles and are unreachable through coaching. Some may start finding different reasons to avoid the sessions; Some start avoiding contact or even request to terminate the coaching prematurely.
When that happens, it goes beyond my means as a coach. Free will is precedent above everything at the end of the day. When they want to avoid being coached, it’s not the coaching they are trying to avoid. It’s not the coach either. It’s themselves. As a coach, I cannot force them to deal with their personal issues if they, as owners of their lives, have given up and decided to avoid them. Accountability is one of the 3 key behaviors needed for a successful coaching relationship and that means being directly accountable for their lives. In these instances, I can only let them go, send them my well wishes and positive energy and keep the communication channel for them in the meantime.
Even in my daily encounters with friends and acquaintances, my attempts at generating conscious conversations are not always met with fervor. Some feel uncomfortable by the discussions and start avoiding the topics. Many prefer to stick to ‘light’, ‘easy’ conversations such as the latest celebrity gossip, TV shows and just casual banter. Having conscious conversations can be quite fearful and confrontational for some, as the conversations directly or indirectly bring up things which they are trying to avoid on a personal level.
My Escapist Behaviors in the Past
When I was a student, there would be times when I wasn’t prepared for tests or exams. Instead of studying, I would be busy playing games, working on my websites (from last time), chatting or immersing in recreational activities. Basically, anything but hitting the books. It didn’t help that I was quite a restless student; I hardly payed attention during classes. Studying was boring and a dread to me.
When that happened, I would sometimes try to avoid school altogether by feigning illness or coming up with some excuses. By sitting for the papers, my lack of preparation would be validated by me not knowing how to do the questions and eventually, my results. I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted to do well; I wanted to be the best I could. It was an all-or-nothing mindset from the perfectionist side of me.
Because having results that were anywhere short of what I envisioned was a symbolism of many different things on many different levels to me. It represented my irresponsibility toward my studies and life. It represented how I lacked the leadership and discipline to get my immediate priorities straight. It represented how I was messing up my life, my future, my dreams and how I was setting myself up for failure. It represented how I was letting myself, my family and people who believed in me down.
In the end, it wasn’t the papers which I was trying to avoid.
It was me. I was trying to avoid myself. I was trying to avoid tainting my own perceived self-image. I was trying to avoid acknowledging that I was messing up in my studies. Excellence was (is) a key value of mine and I didn’t want to acknowledge I was anything less than my idealized self image.
The process of doing the papers, having it marked by a teacher and finally receiving the grade were physical, tangible consequences which would slap the cold, hard truth of my (in)actions in my face. By avoiding taking the papers (and there were times I did succeed in that), I was trying to gain extra breathing space for myself for the exams. I was trying to avoid that one moment of truth.
However, I was just deluding myself. It didn’t matter whether I did the papers or not. The truth was as such – I was irresponsible toward my studies; I lacked discipline; I wasn’t properly managing myself and my life. By trying to avoid the issue altogether, I was letting the issue perpetuate. The same thing would eventually arise again and again in different forms, as I eventually observed later on. It was when I started facing it head on that I was finally embracing my value of Excellence. It was only through accepting, coming clean and taking responsibility of my actions that I could truly move forward and progress.
Dealing With Escapism
Ask yourself this: Is there anything in your life which you feel most confronted by; Anything which you are trying to escape from?
It is important to understand that escapism is a form of defense mechanism. It occurs as a product of you trying to protect yourself from something. Specifically, your ego trying to protect yourself.
Except it really isn’t (protecting you from anything, that is).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that avoidance does not solve anything. The proverb, Ignorance Is Bliss, is probably one of the single most deluded proverbs of all time. If there is an issue you are facing with, that issue doesn’t disappear by avoiding it. It’s still there; it always will be until you face it. It’s like an ostrich burying its head in the sand – Just because you are turning your head away from everything else and pretending everything is okay, does not mean it is okay.
Sure, it may seem easy to just avoid your issues. It may seem easy to just sleep everything away and wake up to a bright and sunny morning the next day, with everything faded away into a semi-distant memory.
But these don’t solve anything. You may get a temporal sense of relief from not having to face what you are trying to avoid. But who are really lying to? Seriously, who? You don’t get anything solved from hiding, avoiding or escaping. You just end up backing off from them all the way until you are eventually walled into a corner one day and you have no choice but to face them.
Until you acknowledge and muster the courage to deal with what you are trying to escape from, your issues will not miraculously disappear. They will continue to be there, creating looping patterns in your life. You will keep finding yourself getting stuck in similar situations and contexts, thinking the same things, feeling the same emotions, doing the same things – over, and over, and over again – until the day you finally decide to do something about them. Loops require conscious intervention in order to break out of them.
As long as you are trying to avoid something, apart of you is vibrating at a conscious level of shame or guilt. So long as a part of you, however small, is trapped in that level, it makes you unable to wholly progress and evolve as a person. To grow, you need to confront what it is you are trying to avoid.
I’m not saying facing your issues is easy. It’s not. When you are trying to avoid something, it is usually a reflection of deeper inner issues which you have not resolved. These issues are delicate. These issues are very real. It takes true strength and courage to be able to face them head on.
And in the process of working through your issues, you don’t always win. Sometimes you may make some headway, only to be subdued afterward. Sometimes, you get beaten back down almost immediately. This is especially so if it involves dealing with something you have been struggling with since a while back.
But that’s okay. What’s important is you never stop trying. For example, in running Personal Excellence, I witness readers face new blocks every week as they pursue their personal goals. That’s perfectly normal in the pursuit of goals. Sometimes, they may fall short of what the targets they set. They may get discouraged and dismayed. But in the coaching process, they eventually regather themselves and continue to press on and fight back. They stay receptive to external enablers to move forward. And because they keep going at it, they eventually succeed in the end.
As long as you keep going; As long as you keep confronting your issues; As long as you keep fighting, you *will* become stronger and stronger. You will grow bigger than your problems such that they are no longer problems. You will level up. If you need additional ammo, engage a life coach to battle these issues together. I promise you it will simply be a matter of time before you emerge victorious.
When that happens, you will be living a life where you are truly liberated; a life where you are no longer running or hiding from something. A life of courage and bravery. A life of truth, authenticity and honesty to everyone. A life of real integrity to yourself.
Image: Children flying kite