Almost everyone participates in some form of escapism. Whether you are a Marvel Comics enthusiast who can’t get enough of the Avengers, a sports fan who can recite the stats for all the top players, or the ultimate Trekkie who’s seen every version of the show, including "Voyager" and "The Next Generation" (I may or may not be a Trekkie). Reading books, watching movies, and playing games are all forms of escapism. Huge events like Comic-Con are fueled by escapism.
Fans from all around the world gather to dress up like their favorite characters, meet the actors who play their heroes, and bond people with fellow fans. Events such as these help to bridge the gap between escapism and avoidance because they bring people together. Rather than escape by yourself, you’re escaping with friends.
And that right there, is what needs to be brought to everyone’s attention. Escapism can be an exciting stress-reliever, but it can also be isolating. When you escape into a game, TV show, or book, you forget about real life. Once you finish the final level, last episode, or chapter, what do you have? Satisfaction? The knowledge of how Sherlock survived the famous fall? According to Celestine Chua, life coach and founder of Personal Excellence,
“ . . . many people try to escape from various things. No matter what they are trying to avoid, these things ultimately ladder down to their fears, their deepest sorrows, their pains, their past, their disappointments.”
Although this may sound harsh, you really haven’t done anything to improve your life by escaping reality. Escapism can provide stress relief, but it does not add to your life, it merely postpones it.
Don’t get me wrong though. I love escapism too. Every morning, I start my day watching a random episode of "Gilmore Girls" (I’ve seen all seven seasons three times through, and yes, I am ecstatic about the Netflix reboot coming in November).
I’m not entirely sure why, but "Gilmore Girls" calms me down. It’s a very light-hearted show and I think that light-heartedness helps me be a bit more light-hearted in my own life. This is proof that escapism can be beneficial to your health. However, it shouldn’t take over your life or overshadow reality.
If you use escapism to run away from your problems, take a minute to examine those frustrations.
Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re not doing what you want to be doing with your life. Maybe your family relationships are rocky. Or perhaps your job is giving you anxiety. If you want to change your circumstances, you have to solve them in the real world. Although the Marauders Map helped Harry, and Eleven uses Eggos to keep her energized, you are not a teenage wizard or a little girl with mind-control powers.
You have one life to live. Explore your area, spend time with your friends, and do things that make you happy. Use escapism to refuel and unwind, but don’t mistake escapism for living.