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I'm an Escapist Trying to Escape Escapism

Updated on November 15, 2010

You may not have heard the term escapism, but you probably have indulged in a little bit of it. According to, Escapism is “the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc.” Escapism is an inclination to run away from reality into a made-up world where one can be safe.

Take the following example:

Someone gives you a deadline. It could be a deadline for work, or a deadline for some serious decision that could change your life, or what have you. You have a limited time to do whatever you need to do, but instead of initiating action, your mind begins to wander: “I wish I were in Antarctica. Of course, they only let scientists live in Antarctica, so maybe I could go as a .... scientific journalist. I could get there by boat. I like boats. A big ship with sails, shuddering in a frozen wind. Really cold. I’ll get a big coat. There’s probably some interesting people living in Antarctica. Lots of cold interesting people.” It could go on and on.

For some, escapism might take the form of the above mental process. For others, it could be joining a writer’s network where they can post as many nonsensical articles as they want for free.

Peter Pan and everlasting childhood
Peter Pan and everlasting childhood

Peter Pan Syndrome

An escapist flees from decision-making in the real world, knowing that he can be the leader in an imaginary one. A common example of this is the die-hard video gamer. Grown-up boys, incapable of working a day job, escape to their virtual world of dragons and warriors and dangerous missions. Often these men are described as having what is known as the Peter Pan Syndrome, the dysfunctional state of eternal childhood. They look like men, but act like little boys.

Michael Jackson displayed an extreme case of Peter Pan Syndrome. He is quoted as saying, “I’ll always be Peter Pan in my heart.” He tried to meld reality with make-believe when he named his ranch “Neverland,” a place that supposedly replaced his “lost childhood.” The circumstances of Michael Jackson and his actions at Neverland are indeed sad and disturbing.

We Are All Escapists

Unlike MJ, most of us don’t adhere to an escapism that equals a perverted renewal of childhood. Instead, our escapism probably comes in more subtle fashions. Do you read novels? Do you watch movies? Do you ever listen to music or play video games? Did you ever hear of fantasy football? Maybe you are more pedantic than that and are just obsessed with dead languages or the philosophy of Plato. Face it, you’re an escapist.

Embrace your inner Peter Pan

Why do people want to escape? They don’t want to face a decision, or harsh reality, or pain. They want to pretend, even if for a moment, that life is everything they ever wanted it to be. They want a happily-ever-after ending. They want, they want, they want ... they’re essentially acting out of selfishness.

Not All Escapism Is Bad

Not all acts of escapism are bad. I would be the last one to tell you to stop reading a story because it’s not real. Escapism can actually be healthy when it takes the form of expanding one’s imagination. We are created in the image of God and therefore are created with the power of creativity, of imagination. I would be a hypocrite if I condemned fiction, because fiction’s my favorite.

Escapism becomes dangerous when the imaginary world becomes more important than the real one. There is a fine line between exploring your imagination with a good book or movie and obsessing with unreality to the point that you neglect the real people around you. By all means, read, watch, be entertained; but remember to come back to the real world. Imagination should be used to enhance life not to replace it.

Escapism Quotes

"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"

JRR Tolkien

"Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!"

JRR Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien the father of modern fantasy fiction
J.R.R. Tolkien the father of modern fantasy fiction

"Nearly all the Escapists in the long past have managed their own budget and their social relations so unsuccessfully that I wouldn't want them for my landlords, or my bankers, or my neighbors. They were valuable, like powerful stimulants, only when they were left out of the social and industrial routine."

Willa Cather

Willa Cather, American author
Willa Cather, American author

"I sell escapism."

Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Buffett | Source

"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a poor substitute for life."

Robert Louis Stevenson


Robert Louis Stevenson was a master story-teller
Robert Louis Stevenson was a master story-teller

"Many of us who walk to and fro upon our usual tasks are prisoners drawing mental maps of escape."

Loren Eiseley


"Bond was escapism, but not meant to be imitated in real life."

Roger Moore

Cheers to all my fellow escapists!


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