I need to run away …
When we feel crushed by the weight of our life issues, we seek psychological and emotional cure in whichever way we can. One of these is by escaping from our failed personal issues – sour relationships, tragedies, losses, unhappy jobs, unfulfilled ambitions, to compensate those losses or dreams that failed to crystallise.
We try to escape from such failures and what is hurting us by filling our lives with various ‘substitutes’. These substitutes could be overeating, sleeping too much, travelling, new jobs or projects, new relationships, drugs, even moving countries …. anything to get away. When these substitutes do not live up to our expectations, we create another cycle of escapism, and chase new sets of dreams and aspirations, until these too, fail. The escapism spirals further and further, until we become believers of our escape mechanism, and are so pinned down by our weaknesses, fears and insecurities that our actions are dominated by them rather than our qualities.
Escapism is a chronic emotional and spiritual disease that can cripple and destroy us in subtle and insidious ways. It is a symptom of living in a dream land. We deny the realities of life and death, and are therefore incapable of taking responsibility for them. We fear tackling our own issues or making an effort to change our conditions, and we falsely believe that escaping will make our failures disappear. Rather than strengthening ourselves by solving the concerns, we weaken ourselves by escaping, knowing full well that we have failed to resolve the original issues. Since nothing truly fills the void inside of us, we keep running, cycle after cycle, substitute after substitute, and eventually surrender to our weaknesses.
These constant failures deplete our self-confidence and belief in our own qualities and abilities. So the escapism continues while we struggle to counterbalance our increasing sense of failure through different emotional "emergency exits".
This emotional atrophy makes it impossible for us to view life positively or from different angles. It makes us so emotionally dysfunctional that we are neither willing to admit our mistakes nor let go of the mistakes of others. Instead, we keep sprinting until we are worn out, only to find ourselves back on the treadmill, running like hamsters in a cage.
Then one day, we find there’s no safe haven in our escape, and nowhere left to escape to.
What is the Problem?
Our interpretation of a successful life is pegged to the accumulation material accomplishments. It can be the quest for a perfect job, a perfect body, a perfect spouse, perfect children. We hurtle onwards even when we all know that such achievements or the happiness attached to them are going to dissipate. Once we have landed on one precarious stepping stone of achievement, we feel that if we do not jump to another one quickly we will sink. This psychology creates an insatiable hunger to accumulate more and more.
When our attempts fail, we then try to escape our reality by creating another reality in which we can succeed or where the problems just vanish. But we fail, or the sense of validation attached to our achievement is short lived. Even if some of our dreams come true, we do not know what to do with them because our eyes are on the dreams that crashed. Hence we are never satisfied with what we have already accomplished and the cycle of escapism continues. New places, past times, people, but same old story.
Simply put, it is the lack of faith, which causes our lack of bearing in life. Without faith, we look to ourselves for the solution, and are dictated by our own desires, perceptions and ethos. This enslaves us to our individual arrogance and temptation. This attitude also makes us slaves to our weaknesses and inadequacies, and therein lies the problem. We place misdirected hopes in our abilities, impaired as they are, rather than in our Creator. Our driving forces and sense of self worth are derived from our limited faculties, and this is what derails us.
We should accept and understand life for what it is. It is filled with imperfections, happiness and sadness. But nothing lasts, and every condition will change. Life is full of loss and gain. Focusing on the losses, being fearful of change, dwelling on what could have been instead of what is, are what pin us down with insecurities and worries, hence the desperate need to run away.
What does Islam have to do with escapism?
A Muslim claims belief in the Almighty and the Owner of Decree and Provision. The Creator owns the keys of everything and the treasure of mankind, and everything that exists, seen or unseen.
Life is full of compromises, ease and difficulty, sweet and bitter moments. Conditions alternate. This is how things are meant to be, for Allah will constantly change the course of our lives. All these changes are brought about to test our faith. What He seeks from us is our resolute and constant perseverance in dealing with the changes. This means that we should not despair, give up hope or amble through life feeling defeated when things do not run in the direction we wish. Fear of change, being anxious about the future, or loving someone or something so much to the point of emotional dependency, will block us from achieving the steadfastness that Allah seeks from us.
When we lose something, it is not the end of everything. It is merely the end of a cycle. When a tree sheds leaves in autumn, it is not dying, it is regenerating. The leaves that fall to the ground are not losses, but will disintegrate to nourish the soil beneath. In winter, the tree strengthens its roots and trunk. If we run away as soon as the first leaves wither, we will not be around to savour the spring petals and the summer fruits which follow.
Hence, when we lose a person, it does not mean that we have lost our lives. When we lose our jobs, money, friends and family, it does not mean we should lose hope. When something changes, it is not the end. It is merely the end of a phase in life, coupled with the promise of many new beginnings.