Home CommentaryOpinions Being afraid of your thoughts: the dangers of escapism

Being afraid of your thoughts: the dangers of escapism

by Marissa Ramnanan April 11, 2017
Being afraid of your thoughts: the dangers of escapism

Running away from your reality to avoid stress isn’t the only option

Escapism refers to activities that allow someone to focus on something other than their current problems, stresses or lives, according to Philip Cooper from John Abbott College’s department of psychology.

Escapism can come in the form of music, movies, books or the Internet, among other things. Using these mediums to “get away” isn’t necessarily a bad thing when used in moderation. These mediums can help us relax, and few would deny relaxation and recreation are healthy activities that enrich our lives. However, it isn’t the healthiest approach to dealing with our stress. Many people are so accustomed to escaping reality that these mundane activities have become harmful.

My friend Matthew said something that resonated with me while we were bussing downtown together. There was a pause in our conversation, and in that moment he looked at the people around him, all buried in their phones, and said absentmindedly: “It’s as though people are afraid of their own thoughts.” This comment put escapism into perspective for me and got me thinking more deeply about the subject.

People keep finding new ways to distract themselves from the present moment, disturbing their thought processes with media.

But when do you give yourself a chance to settle into yourself and your actual surroundings?

I only recently realized how much I was escaping my realities—my phone has been dying in the middle of the day, and so I’ve been forced to spend the hour-and-a-half-long trek home without music or a phone. At first, I felt incapacitated, like I was missing out on the constant connection of social media. But then I started to appreciate the mundane moments around me, and I started to appreciate the strangers around me as well. I’ve been making small talk with the people I sit next to, or just complimenting them on things I wouldn’t have noticed had I been absorbed by my phone. I also get a lot of thinking done, either dissecting a lot of issues I’ve kept buried or practicing my creative writing skills.

We are compulsively trying to escape reality and deviate from our thoughts. We millennials are the zombie generation. We avoid reality—in other words, we avoid facing stressful or emotional circumstances.

By being forced to disconnect from social media, with my phone constantly dying prematurely, I was in turn forced to face the cause of my stresses that I had been so desperately avoiding. After I faced it, I felt nothing but relief. This helped me tremendously, and gave me the incentive to stop running away from my problems.

In order to avoid relying on escapism, one should try to cope with stress directly whenever possible, or look for alternative ways to manage it, Cooper said. “Sometimes talking over your problems with friends can be enough,” he said. “Sleep and exercise are both natural stress relievers and will provide you with other health benefits as well. Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, and setting up a schedule with reasonable goals can often make something seem much less stressful.” He added that, in serious cases, the person might want to consider talking to a counsellor or getting some other type of professional help.

For help with stress management, or to figure out exactly what you are avoiding, do not hesitate to contact the mental health services at Concordia University.

For more information, visit www.concordia.ca/students/health/mental-health.

Graphic by Florence Y

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