There are circumstances when we need to escape from our problems. A break from the pressures and troubles of our lives can refresh us and give us clarity. The problem arises when we do things to the point where we never face the truth about ourselves. To make things worse, we may select means of avoidance that are physically and/or psychologically damaging.
In addition to activities being used to avoid facing the truth, they can also be extremely self-centered, self-gratifying, and spoiled child-like behavior.
Here are the ways we avoid facing the truth about ourselves.
1. We consume alcohol and illegal and prescription drugs. Whether you drink a few glasses of wine every night or just party on the weekends, the intoxication, hangover, and withdrawal prevent you from seeing things as they truly are. The same is true when you take drugs, whether they are illegal or prescribed. And this applies to all the grossly overprescribed antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-“whatever” medications for the constantly growing number of “disorders” that psychologists and psychiatrists pride themselves in naming.
2. We find fault in other people, places, and things. This one is very common. By finding faults in other people, places, and things, we avoid and postpone facing our own problems and shortcomings. We are intrigued, in an unhealthy way, by the faults we find in others. The news media and many talk shows provide the “stuff” for what often becomes an addiction of sorts.
3. We argue about trivial matters. Arguing is waste of time. Arguing about trivial matters is a colossal waste of time. Sometimes referred to as nitpicking, this behavior is a way to avoid the real problem areas in your life.
4. We watch television excessively. TV is a great escape from your reality to manipulated reality. By being a devoted serial television watcher –- one who plans their life around TV shows -– you live a fantasy life through other people. What can you possibly gain by surrendering yourself to this activity? Zero! Just escape. There are a few worthwhile programs on TV that you can benefit from, but you must be selective and avoid being sucked into the TV marketing machine.
5. We watch movies excessively. Occasionally a movie comes out that tells a valuable story worth watching. The majority provides no benefit except, yes you guessed it, escape. If you’re a person who watches a large number of movies on a weekly basis, you are living in a fantasy world. You may be running away from the true realities of your life. Or you’re trying to live your life through the imaginary characters and stories depicted in the movies. It becomes like a reverse version of the lifestyle depicted in the classic movie Sunset Boulevard.
6. We sleep more than we need to. During stressful times, we need more sleep than normal. Our bodies and minds work on the business of healing themselves during sleep. The problem arises when we sleep excessively as a means to avoid something. You know that you are sleeping too much when you feel like a zombie when you are awake.
7. We shop for food and supplies more often than we need to. There are many other activities that you could add to this list of ways to kill time with busy work that is rationalized as being productive. If you are going to the grocery store every day to buy your daily meals, then you are using this activity as a way to avoid something or fill an empty space in your life.
8. We shop for things we don’t need but will give us momentary pleasure. The pleasure of buying is often reinforced by the images that have been implanted in our subconscious by advertisers. The satisfaction of owning the new product almost never fully delivers on the promises shown in the commercials. And once you’ve had it for a couple of days the initial rush of buying it is usually G-O-N-E. Another wasted day shopping. Another wasted $50,000-$150,000 or more if you got sucked into buying a new “prestige” brand luxury car.
9. We eat more often and in greater amounts than we need. If you are overweight, you could write this paragraph yourself. Eating excessively is a way to avoid facing some painful truth in your life. Occasional binge eating acts in the same way.
10. We take vacations that we can’t afford. If you are constantly taking vacations that you can’t afford, you are running away from facing some important issue in your life. Vacations are meant to replenish your body and soul, not deplete your grip on reality. If you are addicted to the excitement of travel or you use it as an excuse to eat and buy anything you want (more escape) then there’s a problem that you are hiding from.
11. We work extremely long hours at our job. Working long hours while neglecting family, social, or personal responsibilities is a sign that you are avoiding something in your life. It’s easy to rationalize long hours as a means to advance your career. The problem is that when you take a close look, you usually find that you’re not working smart but working carelessly in order to work longer hours. This behavior only leads to burnout, not success.
12. We workout at the gym or play sports excessively. If working out at the gym or playing sports occupies a huge chunk of your daily life there’s a good chance that you’re avoiding something. It’s easy to fool yourself into believing that more is better when it comes to exercise, but that’s not true. The only “more” that’s better is quality, not quantity.
13. We surf the Web, play video games, and gamble excessively. It’s easy to escape for many hours doing these activities. The problem is that little benefit can be derived from them except lots of escape.
14. We read trashy books, magazines, and newspapers excessively. Although reading for the purpose of learning is a productive activity, most of what is read by those who use it to escape is junk. I am talking about trashy novels and unauthorized biographies, celebrity gossip magazines, newspapers, and other worthless publications. Even reading a steady flow of personal development books without putting what you’ve read into practice is an act of avoidance.
Facing the truth about yourself and your life is the first step in self-improvement. Until you are able to take an honest look at yourself and your history, your self-improvement efforts will miss the targets you need to hit to be truly successful.
Take a hard look at each of these areas in your own life and decide if you are using them as a means to avoid or escape important issues in yourself or your life. Until you face the issues you’re avoiding, your life will not get any better. And it will never become what you want it to be.
Rather than acting passively through avoidance and escapism, take control of your destiny. This will require that you accept responsibility for everything that is in your life today, take an honest look at yourself, and then take the necessary actions to create the life you want.
Maturity is the key here. A child expects things to come easily. A mature person knows that to get what you want you must face the truth and then act in accordance with it. Once you make this commitment, you will be liberated from the chains of fear.