You may have met people who spend too much time at the computer, read avidly, or are overly addicted to meditation or board games. Those who lead this lifestyle are called escapists. Their distinguishing feature is that they lose interest in the present and create their own reality. In the material, we understand what escapism is, why there is a desire to escape from reality, and in what cases it can be dangerous.
What is escapism
Escapism is a word that refers to a person’s attempt to mentally distract themselves from the troubles of everyday life with the help of some kind of entertainment or activity that activates the imagination.
For the first time the term “escapism”, which is translated from English as “escape”, appeared in Webster’s dictionary in 1939. And after another 15 years, in most English-language dictionaries, one of the official interpretations of escapism was “escape from reality” and definitions similar in meaning.
What is escapism
The concept of “escapism” is used in various fields: in culture, sociology, psychiatry, psychology and literature. And despite the fact that in each of these disciplines they understand something different by escapism, the general meaning of the term comes down to an attempt to avoid something or escape. Below we take a closer look at what is meant by escapism in different areas.
Escapism in Pedagogy
In pedagogy, escapism is understood as a situation where a person does strange things that do not correspond to generally accepted norms. At the same time, unlike shocking – a deliberate provocative trick, escapism can be expressed in alienation and avoidance. As a rule, it is based on stable attitudes of the individual.
Escapism in psychology
Psychologists believe that escapism is a means of protecting the psyche, which is connected when a person tries to escape from reality. It can manifest itself both in an active form, for example, in a game or training, and in a passive one. In the second case, a person is immersed in reading books, meditation and other spiritual practices.
Escapism in literature
Writer John Ronald Reuel Tolkien believed that escapism is closely related to the imagination. He wrote:
I believe that escapism is one of the main functions of the fairy tale, and since I approve of its functions, I do not agree with the contemptuous tone in which the word “escapism” is often used.
There are many examples of escapist literature. For example, the Harry Potter books have become a kind of “refuge” for a whole generation of children. The story of the boy who survived for many has become a special thing to turn to in difficult times.
Escapist literature helps readers relax, entertains them, and at the same time provides food for thought. Some believe that it allows you to look at the familiar world from a different angle.
They say about sports escapism if a person devotes most of his life to sports. In this case, we are not talking about professional athletes, but about amateurs who spend all their free time in the gym, take various supplements and ignore body signals about fatigue. An example would be people who, due to the abundance of muscles, look frightening and even unhealthy.
This type of escapism is attributed to people who become addicted to drugs, alcohol, and other bad habits. As a rule, they not only lose contact with the outside world, but also become a threat to society. And if they do not find the strength to stop, their life is interrupted.
Recently, comic-cons and other events have become very popular, in order to participate in which people are reincarnated as superheroes, historical figures or fantastic creatures. But when a person’s whole life is reduced to imitating the hero of the series or the personality of another era, they talk about role-playing escapism. Over time, the roleplayer can forget about his true self and completely immerse himself in a world that does not exist.
Why Escapism Occurs
The main danger of escapism is that a person who is mired in it loses the desire to do anything and stops developing. Typically, the emergence of escapism is associated with these factors:
- past psychological trauma;
- the inability of a person to live today;
- dissatisfaction with personal life;
- hard work and career difficulties;
- living in a hostile environment and financial difficulties;
- inability to establish contact with others;
- an attempt to escape from problems;
- loss of the meaning of life;
- avoiding internal discomfort;
- desire to live in another era.
How does escape from reality manifest itself?
There are many ways to escape reality. For example, an escapist may suddenly trade a life in a big city and a successful career for a small house in the country where he can hide from others. Or he can continue to live in the metropolis, but never leave the house and spend time at the computer for days.
Workaholism, like an unhealthy addiction to video games and TV shows, is also referred to by some psychologists as a manifestation of escapism.
When is escapism not dangerous?
Escapism is not included in the official list of mental disorders. This is largely due to the fact that escape from reality sometimes works as a completely natural reaction of the psyche to external stimuli. For example, many psychologists recommend that clients who are experiencing prolonged depression find a new hobby, immerse themselves in their hobbies, and in any convenient way to occupy themselves.
This method really works if a person manages to feel the line between an adequate replacement of a traumatic reality and a complete withdrawal into the “other” world.
Some people can find their way through life through escapism. For example, through escapism, a person may decide to leave a job he hates and become a famous writer. Or get the opportunity to relax for a while, put your thoughts in order and reboot.
One of the benefits of escapism is also that it gives a person the opportunity to live their own life, and not be guided by a script prescribed by someone else. In addition, people who practice escapism, more often than others, can boast of developed creative abilities. If the escape takes on a healthy form, a person gets the opportunity to know himself better and find the area in which he can successfully realize himself.
When escapism can hurt
Although escapism is not considered a disease, it can become an obsessive attraction if pushed to the extreme by extraneous factors.
For example, researchers found that the escapism of King Ludwig II of Bavaria was the result of his mental disorders. And Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett became escapist because of drug abuse.
Escapism harms a person when it makes him lose touch with reality and immerse himself in his own world. When this happens, the present begins to frighten the person. Things that were previously difficult for him become unbearable. Here are some more negative consequences of escapism:
- the development of mental disorders, including hypochondria, neurosis or depression;
- the final separation from reality and living in a fictional world;
- loss of existing social status;
- condemnation and rejection by relatives and society as a whole;
- loss of social ties, including with loved ones.
In what situations should escapism be alarming?
The ultimate form of escapism is the desire to commit suicide. Therefore, if your friend has recently begun to express such thoughts, it is worth sounding the alarm. Here are a few more examples of situations that should alert:
The person began to use drugs or drink excessively
There are many reasons why this might happen. Dissatisfaction with one’s own life, genetic predisposition, lack of dopamine in the blood. In any case, if a person has a craving for illegal substances and alcohol, he urgently needs the help of a specialist who will help to cope with this.
Departure of a person into fanatical religiosity, sectarianism
Religious fanaticism is another type of escapism that is dangerous for a person. Most of those who join cults or go too deep into the faith eventually lose the ability to think clearly. They cease to understand and hear other people, cut off ties with loved ones and surround themselves with like-minded people.
Renunciation of worldly goods
Another sign of unhealthy escapism is the desire to give up a prosperous life and pleasure. It can appear in a person if he is faced with a serious illness, has lost the meaning of life, or decided to completely rebuild it. At the same time, asceticism involves the rejection of not only material, but also spiritual benefits. For example, the restriction or complete rejection of sensual pleasures, romantic relationships and friendships.