“You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like defense in football, putting all focus on evading only one offender is asking to be blindsided.”
― Criss Jami
“The problem is, the bathroom pass can’t help you escape life. It’s still there when you come out. Problems and crap don’t go away hiding in the can.”
― Simone Elkeles
“Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable.”
― R.D. Laing
What’s Better Than Running Away?
Escape Example 1
You know how eating that donut or those chili fries tends to just soothe?
That’s probably escape. You’re escaping some kind of discomfort the good feeling blocks out.
Maybe not for very long, though. But any good feeling is better than discomfort.
Escape Example 2
You overheard her talking to her sister, “And then he just punched the wall. He PUNCHED the wall! You can’t tell me that felt good!”
But she doesn’t get it, does she?
It’s not your broken hand that felt good—it was the relief, the turning with all that energy that built up so fast and expending it through the drywall. It was the immediate necessity to punch out the feeling—that’s what felt good!
But that was escape, too. You were attempting to escape a feeling that was suddenly intolerable.
Escape Example 3
Just beyond where you shut down and shut out the noise is this distant thought, if I say something, it’ll be wrong. even if I knew what to say. which I don’t. so I won’t. i’ll just stay quiet and shut down.
We All Escape
Yeah, we all escape even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing.
Addicts do it especially hard every time they use their drug of choice.
Many addicts still don’t realize that ALL addictive behavior is a different form of escape. Whether it’s alcohol, gambling, meth, cigarettes, porn, video games [yeah, that has escalated to addiction level for many people now], hooking up, cannabis, meth, escort services—any addictive behavior you can think of is a specific form of escape. Some say it’s medicating a feeling. I won’t argue that. But in this paper, I’ll keep calling it “escape.”
But since everyone escapes, you probably identify to some degree with the examples I gave above. You understand escape all too well. So you don’t want to be told, “Don’t do it!”
And I said in another piece that “don’t” isn’t very effective anyway. Being told “don’t” only substantiates our focus on what we shouldn’t focus on.
So What Works Better Than Escaping?
If we shouldn’t escape, should we . . . surrender and just accept?
Some people are advanced enough in skill and self-control to do that.
There’s a better alternative to escape, though. One that answers every argument that escape has.
Escape argues, “I’ll give you temporary but immediate relief!
The alternative says, “I offer delayed but long-lasting relief.”
Escape proclaims, “My way avoids bad discomfort (even if it leads to bad places).”
The alternative promises, “If you take my route, you always end up in a better place.”
Escape entices, “But I feel sooo good!”
The alternative soothes, “I gently produce long-term benefits.”
Escape leaves you with regret.
The alternative produces confidence and satisfaction.
Escape provides relief right now!
The alternative supports you over time.
The Alternative to Escape
Have you figured out yet what the always-better alternative to escape is?
Simply put, it’s self-care.
Self-care is action or behavior that leaves you better off than before.
Self-care is different for each person. Everyone gets to decide their own self-care.
Escape is subconscious and happens automatically. Self-care requires thought, planning, and awareness.
David’s idea of self-care is grilling great meals for family and friends. Ben gets self-care out of taking his dog for long walks.
When quick access to self-care is needed, Alex employs relaxing breathing exercises while Will phones a friend.
Most Often, There’s a Better Alternative
No matter what the annoyance or major problem is, you always (I hate to say always, but it actually applies here) have a better option than practicing escape. And regardless of what that specific practice is, the better alternative is always some form of self-care.
Watch for a future piece where I expand on finding your most effective self-care practices.
In the meantime, start increasing your awareness by asking yourself, “is there an alternative to what I’m about to do that will leave me with satisfaction instead of later regret?”