Psychology of Escapism: Why do we run away from our reality?

by Pooja Mukherjee
1 comment

Humans have always been enchanted by mystical stories of faraway lads, heroes winning the battles single-handedly, and the guy falling in love with the quietest girl in the college. 

Our choices in movies and books reflect our emotions and beliefs; we like what we see and enjoy. Be it a romantic comedy where the guy tries to woo the girl’s heart in several ways, or superhero movies which prove that good always wins over wrong or sci-fi, which transports us to a fantastical world of imaginative adventures. 

All these are a form of entertainment for the human mind, and we indulge ourselves in such imaginative scenarios to escape from our reality and connect with our deeper consciousness.

Escapism and Magical Realism

For the uninitiated, escapism is the tendency to divert yourself from boring or unpleasant aspects of your life, usually through activities that involve entertainment and imagination. On the other hand, magical realism is a fictional style of presenting a realistic view of the modern world with aspects of magic and fantasy.

Both escapism and magical realism are adopted as forms of coping mechanisms to refrain oneself from persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, and sadness. According to author Garcia Marques of One Hundred Year of Solitude, magical realism facilitates the inclusion of alternative realities into the human mind, making an impression over our belief system and helping us escape from the toxicity of our realities.

Why do we delve into escapism and the fantastical world?

Is escapism a good thing? To a certain extent, yes. Movies and books of fiction enable us to get away from our harsh realities and delve deeper into our consciousness. Do we switch ourselves off while watching a movie or reading a story? Are we trying to escape from depression with the help of escapism psychology? Do we replace our real world with elements of fantasy that help us to shut down obvious answers for our sadness?

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Therapist Lynn Reed believes escapism to be an unhealthy obsession for people who want to run away from their problems. She further explains it as a psychological coping mechanism that prevents us from improving circumstances in real life and solving our problems. Escaping from psychological wounds that haven’t healed yet can pose serious triggering factors in the human brain. Remember, avoiding conflicts with your brain does not solve things. It is you who is fighting with your own consciousness; standing up to your situations and accepting the reality is important for emotional wellness.  

The psychological implications of adopting escapism to create an alternative reality can be huge. People who are addicted to superhero movies or sci-fi reflect themselves as someone who is hopeful towards winning in life, but wouldn’t know how to forge that path eventually. 

Romantic comedies impose an unrealistic standard of love and relationships, and being obsessed with them can be a huge indicator of a lack of affection in one’s life. While storybooks like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones provide us with an imaginative world full of uncertainties and complexities, people who tend to escape their life and obsess over such fantastical storylines are often running away from what is important and what is not.

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Ultimately, escaping into the world of the films and books you read is a sign of fighting with one’s inner self; when depression and anxiety creep in, forgetting about everything seems to be a viable solution. Most of us intentionally distract ourselves from the real world to feel a temporary sense of relief. 

But our issues will not get resolved if we do not acknowledge our anxieties that are creeping inside our minds. We would be reliving those uncomfortable scenarios in our minds over and over again, and it would never end until we decide to intervene.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what you change, but how you evolve through the changing patterns. To live a life that is truly liberated of things we are running away from is more valuable than escaping into a world that would never be true. Try to accept your reality and be honest with yourself. Till next time.

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1 comment

SoBer ToBer July 29, 2020 - 10:49 pm

This was very well written but the fact that a certain kind of a book or a movie portrays one’s depressive state or any other emotion per se, worries me .

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