Most of us are familiar with that feeling of living for the weekend in order to turn our back on the demanding days that have passed or craving an impending festival in order to truly let loose and shake off the stress of modern living. This idea has lead me to question the relationship that we have with escaping our daily routine. Could it be that we are damaging our attempts at conscious living, in order to simply blow off steam? Is there such thing as conscious escapism?
It can be argued that escapism is to seek relief from unpleasant realities, often through entertainment or fantasy. According to Longeway, escapism becomes damaging once the individual avoids awareness of the ‘issues’ or beliefs at hand. Escapism through entertainment has an intention to draw us away from our everyday predicaments. There is a danger that we can get caught up in the fantasy of our life being better than it really is (which could be a paradox considering it is a concept based on our own interpretation and understanding). As human beings, we often escape in different ways dependent on our personal interests. For example: reading, listening to music, completing a crossword or puzzle, going on vacation, doing daily yoga, all the way to becoming comatose in front of the television, playing computer games and taking drugs. Who is to say, that one is more damaging than the other if the same purpose is being fulfilled?
Escapism is not inherently negative. The perception however, is negative. This is ironic considering most of us indulge in escapist behavior on a regular basis. Longeway argues that if we are of course to deny that something is true (health issues for example), escapism can be damaging and deceiving. Thus, a little scale becomes visible. If we don’t fool ourselves into avoiding confronting issues and we do not deny something is there, then we can move towards acknowledgement of what lies within us – becoming more conscious. There are logical reasons why one may want to escape, but it is important to remind oneself not to use escape as a coping mechanism. Here an unhealthy habit can develop. But, it does seem logical and healthy to drop out every now and then – like a system re-boot.
Let’s place yoga into the spotlight – my favourite hobby when I need to float to a happy cloud, soaring above my anxious thoughts. The sensation that I experience after yoga is very tranquil and calm, to the point where most things don’t really matter in the moments that follow. Each time I plan a class, I feel a little tingle in my belly and this continues on until I step on the mat – I am immediately transported into another zone. I crave this feeling and I follow it around. For me, yoga and meditation is certainly a form of escape. However, when practicing, we are continuously encouraged to be as present and conscious as possible. Furthermore, if we have pain, issues or problems, rather than labeling them, we are encouraged to acknowledge them and continue on – calming confronting what is occurring. When practicing, we are taught not to deny emotions but to embrace them whatever they may be and however they may arise. Thus, the whole time that we are escaping during yoga, we are holding the hand of our demons and essentially confronting them.
If we then analyse escapism through taking drugs, the process can alternate and present varying benefits compared to taking a yoga class, but the underlying importance is still on balance. Perhaps escapism through taking drugs could lead you further away from confronting what it is that you are indeed temporality running from – but who is to say that this is detrimental or wrong?
Whilst too much of this fleeing behavior can lead you away from significant personal goals or even hinder your productivity, not enough can result in excessive levels of stress and even burn out. Ultimately, escapism provides your brain with the coping skills for understanding heavy emotions and pressured situations – without it, we would likely crumble. Thus, it is crucial to think of escapism as an activity that is neither positive or negative but as an activity that requires monitoring and careful practice. Perhaps the use of the word is also outdated and if we simply re-label it to ‘re-fueling’, ‘re-charging’ or ‘de-compressing’, our whole outlook could be transported to an alternative space.