Escapism within our lives

Escapism within our lives

Think about the last television show you watched, the last video game you played, or the last book you read. Did you enjoy it? Did it give you a sense of comfort or distract you from thinking about something or someone?

It is safe to say that getting away from stress is nearly impossible in today’s world for many with the advances that allow almost everyone to remain in the know, whether a person is directly impacted by those events or not.

Different ways of coping are necessary to get a break from these stressors and relax while doing an activity that we enjoy so that we are able to keep working towards what we need to despite the things that are impacting us within our lives. Though the ways that people unwind can be quite different, doing those things can have similar effects on their mood and behaviors.

“I have several ways to destress and chill, but first and foremost movies and TV. At the end of the day, I often pop a bag of popcorn, grab a soda, and plant myself in front of a new release, a beloved classic, or a comfort film. I especially love to show movies to my children. I also absolutely adore podcasts, best paired with a good walk. I have walked for hours with my earbuds in, listening to film podcasts (The Big Picture is a must) or news and interview pods. Nothing better than listening to a good conversation. Of course, reading is key as well.” says Carter Ringle, a history teacher and entertainment connoisseur. Simply glancing around his classroom is a clear indication of the passion he has for film, music, and literature of a variety of genres.

According to the American Psychology Association, escapism is ‘the tendency to escape from the real world to the safety and comfort of a fantasy world.’

Whether we realize it or not, escapism plays a major role within most of our lives. Books, plays, music, TV shows, movies, social media, or video games serve the primary purpose of entertaining us and transporting us to a place different from where we stand in reality. 

Some more obscure forms include drug or alcohol use, shopping, and even dreaming. A wide variety of activities can push the boundaries of escapism depending on how they are used. Any way that someone is attempting to change how they feel or think at a particular moment by pretending events are different in the course of their lives or that they are different people themselves can possibly classify something as an act of circumvention.

“Escapism is a way to leave the day behind and focus on engaging in interests or relaxing. Probably the biggest “escape” I’ve had recently is watching Get Back, in which you feel as if you’re hanging out with the Beatles as they record Let it Be. Sure, I enjoy the proverbial “real world,” but who doesn’t want to escape to new ones sometimes? To me, escapism is a necessary part of life in which you can engage in your own imagination or nostalgia,” says Ringle. 

Psychological Aspects

Oftentimes, individuals engage in escapist acts without even realizing they are doing so.

For junior Vi Bollinger, escapism is “an attempt to protect myself from anything that causes distress. It’s a bad habit of mine because everything I’ve avoided builds up and can no longer be ignored.”

Conditions such as maladaptive daydreaming are diagnosed disorders and serve as examples of extreme escapism, defined by the Sleep Foundation as “a condition where a person regularly experiences daydreams that are intense and highly distracting.”

This disorder, not yet recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5, is most commonly a trauma response, allowing one to run away from triggers and be able to engage in highly fantastical worlds different from their own and is one of the many examples of how escapism, in this case daydreaming, can heavily impact the way a person thinks.

Addictions such as gambling or drugs are also often responses to a sort of internal lacking; a person’s attempt to make up for the psychological needs that were either not fulfilled within their childhoods or adolescence or that they are missing in their adulthood by doing things that make them feel good or that make them forget about the pain they are experiencing.

One of the main reasons for the uptick in social media and electronic activity addictions in recent years is the large amounts of dopamine that many applications are specifically designed to release from users’ hypothalamus brain region. Dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, is a major motivator of human behavior whether we realize it or not, and building an increasingly hard to fulfill tolerance over time leads one to not be able to enjoy other activities that do not release such large amounts of the hormone as they could in the past.

These are a few of many examples of how escapism can interact with not only the intramural self but also brain chemistry and neurological changes, which go on to affect behaviors and a person’s outlook on the world around them.

Beneficial or Harmful?

“I think escapism is overwhelmingly positive. It can generate empathy, spark imagination, or we experience something vicariously. However, one must be careful not to become too indulgent, especially at the expense of life itself,” says Ringle.

Some feel as if escapism is the only way they are able to enjoy themselves and relax, others believing that they are just distractions from the people and the world around us that ruin our chances of actually enjoying anything that happens to us in the realms of reality.

Escapism looks different for everyone and the reasons behind engaging in these activities are highly ranged as well. It is not always a response to negative things and can be beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing in having an outlet to express ourselves and be visionary as well as lessen pressures upon us.

“To me personally it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism that plagues my day to day life. Imagining a better situation and environment contributes to materialism and ungratefulness,” says junior Kennedie Hammond, “I do believe people should aspire for better conditions and have dreams but escapism can be dangerous and always has been for me.”

Reading and drawing among a multitude of other activities have stood as fortresses of safety for millions ever since the dawn of their creation. In the modern day, it is difficult to explicitly avoid doing any of these pastimes due to the sheer fact that so many things are used as evasion, but rather being aware of the media and the behavior that we associate with it can allow us to pay attention and attempt to prevent those distractions from taking over our lives.