Escapism comes in so many shapes and sizes and can range from fairly innocuous, occasional behaviors to obsessive behavior patterns or even addictions that interfere with everyday life. Chances are, we all engage in some form of escapism. When we know the types of escapism that can tend toward becoming addictive and the heart issues that prompt them, we can help our kids to recognize the potential pitfalls associated with too much escapism — and even the urge to be swept away into another world.
What To Look For
Of course, the amount of time spent in any form of escapism is key to ascertaining whether the behavior is becoming a problem. While some people engage in the following activities for reasons other than to escape reality, many use these behaviors to escape the difficulties of life:
• Watching TV or movies, listening to music, or reading fiction
• Viewing pornography, passively viewing social networking sites
• Playing video games, texting, or actively engaging in other electronic diversions
• Sleeping or daydreaming
• Drinking or taking illicit drugs
While the last grouping of activities can clearly lead to highly addictive behavior, so can the others listed. They may not put lives at risk, but they can certainly cause problems in the (real) life of your teen, even causing confusion of a fantasy world with reality.
The basic idea is that in the absence of an ability to physically “escape” the realities of life circumstances (or difficult thoughts or emotions), a person finds a way to mentally and emotionally go someplace else. It may be someplace where a guy who can’t get a date to save his life can have his lust satisfied with women who would never give him the time of day, or it might be a place where someone who is lonely can vicariously feel loved through the story of someone else. It could involve literally mind-altering substances or escaping through sleep.
How To Help
Regardless of the kinds of unfulfilled desires that propel a person into escapism, the basic issue is the same: discontentment with life. For those who know that God is sovereign, at the heart of this issue is a frustration with God and what He has allowed. While a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, physical activity, and getting needed rest and sleep will help a person be emotionally stable, the issue of feeling the need to escape has to be addressed.
In Philippians 4:6-8, Paul gives us a recipe for productive thoughts and mental disciplines that can help us face even the most difficult emotions and circumstances. James, in chapter 1 of the book of the same name, encourages us to go through trials, not to try to escape from them.
While it’s natural to desire relief from emotional pain, God wants us to come to Him with our burdens (Matthew 11:28). Secondly, we need to learn to share our burdens with others, so they can pray for us and encourage us (Galatians 6:2). In fact, that’s one of the (many) reasons for which Christ founded the church!