I've been thinking about escapism for a while now.
What is escapism? Essentially, anything that takes us away from being fully present. So, this would include:
- Watching TV/movies (a personal favourite)
- Booze (ditto)
- Sex (can be — depending on context)
- Food (any emotional altering food — carbs to dampen, sugars to elevate, etc)
- Worrying (ie, misery-focused daydreaming)
- Non-essential shopping (aka "filling our lives with unnecessary crap")
- Drugs (a lot of — but not all)
in other words, anything which numbs us.
also any form of distracting ourselves from the task at hand, or procrastination:
- Idly surfing the web
(we all have our personal favourites)
in other words, anything we're doing primarily because it uses up time (while optionally making us feel slightly better).
A good question: Does this task take time, or am I doing it solely because it fills in my time?
Now, if you're doing any of the above with the specific intention of being present while doing it, that's a different kettle of fish. I am of course speaking in very broad terms — there are valid exceptions to all of the above.
While we're doing any activity the key thing is to notice where our attention is, why we're doing it, and whether our primary motivation is simply to avoid something else.
What is it that we are trying to avoid?
Usually it's something unpleasant. A feeling we're not comfortable with, a task we don't enjoy, or maybe just life in general.
I saw a lot of this when I was working in investment banking in London, both in myself and others. It's the "my life sucks, let's get drunk!" solution. Where by "solution" I mean "escapism that really doesn't do anything to help at all."
In general, escapism, procrastination & avoidance all fit under the title "side-effects of aversion".
You have an aversion to something, and procrastination etc are simply the result of that aversion. This is why "trying to stop procrastinating" rarely works. (also because it's focusing on the problem, hence the above approach). You may have temporarily adjusted a result, but you haven't dealt with the root cause.
The Bhagavad Gita talks about the two forms of wanting — attachment & aversion. Releasing both forms is what leads to enlightenment, ie, the cessation of suffering.
So, in order to drop, say, TV watching, you need to first ask "What am I avoiding, by watching TV?" Then, you need to heal/drop/etc that aversion.
It's also super useful to ask "What's the upside of TV watching?" "What's my payoff?" "What's the benefit I perceive?" and so on. Ie, drop the attachment.
This then leaves you in a place where you're free to make a choice (watch/don't-watch) with zero internal emotional tension.
Dumping your aversions
As an example, you have a blog post you need to get written. It's causing you pain, or not flowing like it usually does. A whole raft of negative thoughts are floating around it (I'm not good enough. I can't think of anything to write. Nobody reads my stuff anyway. It's all crap. I'm blocked… the list goes on). Those are all your aversions to doing the task at hand — writing that post.
I find tapping my karate chop point (the fleshy side of your hand where you would, hypothetically, karate chop someone) while asking "What's my aversion to writing this post" or "Why don't I want to do this?" or "What sucks about this?" helps bring those aversive thoughts to the surface. I can then write each down, in turn, and move to the next one. Really, just ask whatever resonates for you.
If I'm feeling particularly clear then I don't need to tap my hand necessarily — it's just a useful tool for "tuning in."
Once I have a list of the aversions (reasons for avoiding it), I can then simply knock them out, one by one. How?
Usually either by:
- Using EFT (slow, but a good solid approach), or
- Using releasing (much faster — just take the thought back to wanting or lacking approval, control or safety & let it go)
Once it's gone (ie, we feel no particular emotional resonance to it any more) then it's super easy to replace each thought with an opposing, positive thought.
- "I'm not good enough" -> "pfft! I'm plenty good enough, I can do this in my goddamn sleep"
- "I can't think of anything to write" -> "Course I can, the whole world's my inkpot"
- "Nobody reads my stuff anyway" -> "Who cares! Writing's fun, and besides, those that need to read it will"
- …and so on
You may have noticed, I find getting all sweary is a great way to give myself a nice positive kick up the bum. Works for me, you just need to find what kind of language motivates you the most strongly.
If you've really dropped each aversion, then those positive replacement thoughts will swill around in your brain pleasantly.
If saying the positive phrase raises resistance (physical tension, opposing thoughts of emotions), there's just a little more to go. So, let go of whatever comes up & try again till you're clear & calm.
Dumping your attachments
Once you've got rid of the obvious aversions, then you can look at the escapism more specifically.
Questions like "Why the hell do I want to watch TV?" "What's compelling me to watch this?" "Why would I rather do this than write that blog post?" and so on. Really, anything that pops in your head that feels right. That'll give you the other side of the equation. In other words, your attachments.
Then, just do exactly the same thing you did for your aversions to (say, writing the post), to your attachments to (say, watching TV).
So, tap or release on each of the attachments to watching TV.
Now, it might take a few goes to clear everything out — that's quite normal. We're complex, layered beings, and often we need to remove the outer layers before we can see more deeply.
Yes, we're all onions.
However, pretty much straight away you'll start to feel both your resistance to doing the task start to dissipate, and your attraction/compulsion to that particular form of escapism fading.
I've been doing both of these things — on tasks I want to get done, and forms of escaping, for a few weeks now, and I tell you, my life is CHANGING.
In a million years I never would have thought it would be possible to not surf my favourite geek news sites, and not watch TV.. and yet, here I am (and don't even get me started about dumping booze, sugar & no caffeine during the week).
The best thing of all? It's been effortless. Really. The motivation just isn't there any more. I can watch TV or not watch TV, I don't care either way. The magnetic tractor beam that has been there pretty much my entire life has just disappeared.
Even better, as I continue to query & release aversions to the various projects I have, I'm getting ever clearer, and the more effortlessly everything is falling into place.
Yes, it really is possible to escape from escapism.