The New Era of Escapism


“The invitation to escape lies in our current feelings of inadequacy to face what’s in front of us.”

-Audrey Hardin, LPC

By Audrey Hardin, LPC 

Netflix, music, porn, online shopping, and social media—many of these platforms have exploded in the last ten years. Porn sites, for example, receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined each month. And un-coincidentally, you can access most all of these mediums on your phone, giving you the ability to escape anytime and anywhere you want.  

It’s just that simple. When your job, your relationships, or your own mind start to overwhelm, just reach for your phone, put your headphones in, and check out. 

Escapism isn’t new, though. It began in the 1930s during the Great Depression. People needed a way to escape their current reality into a world of fantasy, thus the movie industry began, which helped people forget their struggles for a few hours.

We may be farther from a nation-wide economic crisis, but the invitation to escape lies in our current feelings of inadequacy to face what’s in front of us.

Today, we hear a lot of inspiring stories of those who have hustled and made things happen for themselves –making something out of nothing, carefully curating the life they want, or overcoming the numerous odds stacked against them. But do these stories really inspire us or discourage us?

Consider the models in the magazines— are we motivated to change our diet and exercise regime because of their perfect figures gracing our feeds or do we reach for a bottle of wine or our favorite Netflix series? These mediums become a way for us to dissociate from the feeling that we should know how to get there, but we don’t. For most of us, it’s not a call to action but a call to avoid. 

Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve got what it takes, that you’re enough, or that there’s no way you can try and fail one more time.

As human beings we have an innate tendency towards fight or flight when under stress. Fight takes effort because in order to do so, we typically must identify why we are fighting, what we are up against, and how will we come out winning. 

Flight seems easier, doesn’t it? –Less to figure out and less effort to exert. When we escape into an alternate reality via scrolling, binge watching, or retail therapy we get to pretend that the pressures, stress, and feelings of inadequacy don’t exist. But how do we feel when the escape is interrupted? Better? If anything, our methods of escape help the time pass by a little faster…yet we find ourselves exactly where we started, and with an added sense of guilt to top it off!  

Here are 3 solutions to keep you present to face it, instead of yearning to escape it:

1. Zoom out.

Before you reach for your escape of choice, zoom out and look at your life as a whole    instead of looking at the many little lives on a little screen. Life is a process that involves TIME –a lot of it. Anyone who has achieved anything noteworthy has accepted this truth –to truly succeed, you must engage in the struggle over time because when we try to escape the bad, we shut out the good as well. 

Take Abraham Lincoln for example; he was defeated 8 times in office before becoming President of the United States and abolishing slavery.

2. Zoom in.

Consider the mechanisms of the brain to develop effective strategies to live your life one step at a time. The brain is wired to create habits to conserve energy, so if you’ve developed a habit of escapism, know that this habit must be substituted with a healthier one. However, we feel inadequate to make new habits because the brain operates from the back to the front, ie the brain stem (survival mode) to the pre-frontal cortex (high level executive functioning). The point? Expect resistance and FIGHT! You’re working through two levels of the brain to get to the intelligent level that helps you make the choices you need to make in order to achieve your goals.

3. Seek help.

No one who got anywhere noteworthy in life did it alone, especially considering we cannot be objective about ourselves. Seek a counselor or coach to help you identify your blind spots, form better habits, and cheer you on.

If we are really honest with ourselves, we all have a tendency towards escapism when we can’t seem to achieve societal expectations. Somewhere along the way, we accepted the culture’s message that we need to be a better, stronger, more attractive person before we can succeed in life, instead of the message that life is a process.

In order to become, we must fail; and though escaping seems to dull or prolong this truth, the truth remains that out of our failures, we develop our greatest selves.

Bridget Crowder