A Little Introduction to Escapism and Avoidance


“There are more things… likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

Are you familiar with that quote? or even have experienced it yourself? 

That saying can be found in Seneca’s thirteenth letter titled “On groundless fears.” The quote was written to counsel his young friend to be in the present time; to not think about the unhappy crisis before the crisis comes. “...which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.(Popova, 2017)

It says that if it does not yet come, it does not come yet. So, rather than spending your time imagining things that will not certainly happen, better spend your time focusing on doing things that you can do in the present time. However, being in the present moment is not easy. To some of us, uncertainty is scary because we could spend time imagining worse things that could happen, and sometimes we are too afraid of the uncertainty in the future that we choose to run rather than face our fear. Whereas the truth, we somehow know that it will not go as bad as we think it will be. But once again, it is just complicated to some people; indescribable. So, to avoid their fears, we run for a while. We escape; to delay the inevitable, even just a little bit. 

So, what is escapism?

The first time I found this term was from an  Instagram account where the owner uses reading as her way to escape from reality. Because I can relate to that, I looked the term up. Quoting from Fort Behavioral Health (2021), escapism is defined by The American Psychology Association as the impulse to escape from reality to the safety and warmth of a fantasy world. It is written that escapism can be one of the coping skills when it is used positively

Escapism can be helpful to prevent burnout, reduce stress, and boost our hope, determination, courage, and mental strength. It is usually done by watching television, movies, reading books, gaming, daydreaming, sport, cooking and eating, and switching off social media. Meditation and mindfulness are also good forms to take a step back from the real world. (Victoria, 2021)

Despite its goodness in our life, we have to be careful not to make our escape become avoidance. Escapism is supposed to be a way to help us return to reality with renewed energy to deal with our challenges. Therefore, when we find ourselves consciously or unconsciously using escapism too frequent to ignore the problems and feelings we do not want to feel, we must set a line there; we must stop for a while and reflect on the things we want to escape and avoid: what and why we want to avoid that? Because when escapism goes too far, it could be destructive. It could be detrimental to our studies, work, relationships, and well-being. Our problems will remain undressed and bottled up inside our heads, and that is not good for our wellness. There will be a day when you will explode and become the version of yourself you do not know. 

Where escapism is momentary, avoidance can be a way of life.” – Dr. Victoria Miller

If you think the escapism you have been doing is more likely an avoidance and it is affecting your daily functioning, please be aware and handle it immediately. If it is necessary, go seek professional help. It can be helped, as long as you too are willing to be helped. 

Further Readings:

  • https://medium.com/change-your-mind/how-escapism-ruins-your-life-and-how-to-escape-it-99ece10bf184

  • https://www.melbournewellbeinggroup.com.au/the-wellbeing-blog/the-joy-of-escapism-and-the-challenge-of-avoidance 

  • https://personalexcellence.co/blog/escapism/


Fort Behavioral Health. (2021, August 9). Is Escapism Detrimental? | Mental Health & Dual Diagnosis TX. Fort Behavioral Health. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.fortbehavioral.com/addiction-recovery-blog/escapism-coping-skill-or-detrimental/

Popova, M. (2017, August 27). A Stoic's Key to Peace of Mind: Seneca on the Antidote to Anxiety. The Marginalian. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.themarginalian.org/2017/08/27/seneca-anxiety/

Victoria, M. (2021, February 3). The Joy of Escapism and the Challenge of Avoidance — Melbourne Wellbeing Group. Melbourne Wellbeing Group. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.melbournewellbeinggroup.com.au/the-wellbeing-blog/the-joy-of-escapism-and-the-challenge-of-avoidance

Writer: Marsha Almira

Editor: Andrrea Zelina