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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 Dictionary.com, 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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    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      Hi clark, thanks for reading! I am an avid supporter of escapism, but I do think it can get out of hand. Through personal escapism, we are able to explore our innate creativity, hopefully adding more beauty to the world. Plus, it makes the day so much better :)

    • clark farley profile image

      clark farley 

      6 years ago

      Escapism has always gotten a bad rap, probably because (that admonition) is intend in the service those who would use the 'life' of people to their own benefit. (Think building cathedrals in the Middle Ages, or the birth of capitalism).

      But perhaps the experience that we all indulge in at mone time or another, this 'escapism' is more in line with freedom (of the individual) than it is shirking responsibility. I prefer to think of it as a part (of ourselves) that is trying to show us something, that there is something more to existance, at least when we leave the mundane, however briefly.

      Good Post, thought provoking!

      ...now get back to Work! lol

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for reading! Yes, daydreaming is a form of escapism, one I partake of all the time! I don't think it's a bad habit, though, as long as you don't get completely carried away :)

    • profile image

      Noname  

      6 years ago

      Really great article! I find myself daydreaming quite often, which I guess is escapism.

      I know it can become a bad habit, but it's kind of nice to know that no matter how awful my day went, I still have my own little imaginary adventures to cheer me up :)

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Hi froggy, sorry you don't agree, but thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      froggy 

      7 years ago

      You had me until the created in God's image thing.

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      fahiondreamer, seems like you're daydreaming and trying to escape from your project about escapism! It sounds like an interesting project ... maybe practicing escapism will increase your creativity and understanding of it :)

    • profile image

      fashiondreamer 

      7 years ago

      Hi, I'm doing a fashion design project at the moment about escapism. I can't quite get my head round it. I'm always daydreaming about different scenarios, but can't think of an amazing way to put that into fashion. Everyone's escapism is different, everyone has different meanings to the perfect world to escape too. Reality is always a horrible hit at the end of the daydreaming also!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Why, thank you, cosette :)

    • profile image

      cosette 

      8 years ago

      best hub title i have seen in a while. great hub too :)

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for reading, Duchess! Yes, we all have our moments of escapism. I know I do. When life gets rough, I like to imagine different places I could go to escape. But reality always calls me home.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      Interesting hub. I'm pretty sure everyone "escapes" from things every once in awhile. It's harmless until it becomes an obsession. Well done.

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      thanks...

    • profile image

      unknown 

      8 years ago

      nice...

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      He really did accomplish a lot, even though he was so sickly. Maybe it's through weakness that we find strength.

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Very true and it's amazing to me that a man that was so sick much of his life could create such fantastic stories. Just shows the power of the imagination!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Kendall! Stevenson wrote great adventure stories, so it's neat that he recommended living more than reading.

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Rose thank you for this great hub! I loved all the quotes too, especially R.L.S. As much as we all have our favorite novels and perhaps indulge in the ever tantalizing dream to live in that novel, it would be a poor substitute for a life. I think he meant to tell his readers to make your own grand adventures. Thanks again!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      You've heard of "The Sword in the Stone" the Disney cartoon? Well, it was based on part of the book "The Once and Future King". It's a humorous retelling of King Arthur and his round table. White is pretty liberal with the story, and often very funny. I don't know much about White, and I didn't quite agree with his worldview portrayed in the book. But it is an interesting read.

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      I'm not familiar with White's Once and Future King. Is it a book?

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Good point, Jane! Fantasy fiction is great if it makes you appreciate real life more and doesn't act as a substitute for it. And isn't real life filled with epic moments? We just have to have the eyes to see them. Love the ant bit ... reminds me of T.H. White's "The Once and Future King".

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      I like what children's fantasy author N. D. Wilson said about fairy stories and escapism. He said he wrote fantasy, not to make people dissatisfied with their lives after reading about a grander, more "epic" world, but to actually create a healthy and rich excitement for seeing the wonder, or "fantasy" if you like, of their everyday lives. An ant on the sidewalk could be going into battle and this could be the climax of his life.

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Feline Prophet, yes, escaping for a time can bring you rest and renewal. It gets you re-energized for reality.

      itakins, isn't it funny how many debates are really just insignificant escapism? Thank you!

    • itakins profile image

      itakins 

      8 years ago from Irl

      This could spur a great debate on 'what is reality?' and then we could escape some more while sussing that one out!

      Brilliant hub and brilliantly presented.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      Everyone needs a break from routine - what would life be if we couldn't escape to another dimension occasionally, as long as we knew our way back to reality! :)

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Cris A, thanks for reading. Reality can bite pretty hard, but we just have to bite back.

      Dohn, imagination is such a wonderful gift, but I find myself getting too caught up in it sometimes. I'm not Peter Pan, I'm Rose West. But wait, that's not me either. Avatars and pen names, oh brother. Thanks for commenting, as always.

      Shalini Kagal, thanks for your comment. Escape is probably a natural reaction we all have.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      8 years ago from India

      I guess we are all escapist to some degree! Interesting hub.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 

      8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you said,"Imagination should be usrd to enhance life, not replace it." Perfect! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Interesting read. My escapist nature takes the form of daydreams, but yeah I always wake up in time for reality bites harder! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it :D

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