If you’ve been over in these parts of town for any length of time, you know I talk a lot about numbing out and how it can be harmful for us. I’ve talked about my own sobriety and even have a recovery series on my podcast.
The truth is: we like to escape. We typically don’t like to feel our feelings. Life is hard and sometimes agonizing. Not many of us are equipped to handle life’s struggles, so we find things to escape from it.
And the message we might be getting is that we shouldn’t ever do this. We shouldn’t ever numb out. We need to be with our feelings, be present to our life no matter how difficult it is.
So, is escapism ever okay?
Honestly, my short answer is yes. I don’t by any means expect people to fully let go of all of their numbing mechanisms. I just don’t believe there’s any way we can let go of them and go through life with all the pain and agony there is to experience. Some of the most evolved humans I know still sometimes choose numbing over facing their problems and feelings around it. Even Brené Brown talks about a time where she read a bunch of mean comments about herself on the Internet and promptly “grabbed a jar of peanut butter, a blanket and watched ten hours of Downton Abbey.”
So, the question becomes what is healthy escapism and what isn’t?
I think the first question to ask yourself, is is your escapism chronic? In other words, are you eating too much cake every day? Or are you shopping online and putting yourself in debt? Drinking an entire bottle of wine every night? Not tending to your kids’ needs because you’re playing Candy Crush like it’s your job? Most of the time, you know when it’s too much. Denial is a powerful thing, but there comes a time when the pain of staying in your numbing mechanism outweighs the pain of facing the real problem underneath it all.
And sometimes, we– as high achieving, smart women– can tend to let the pendulum swing completely the other way. We get “permission” to numb out sometimes and get what I call “a case of the fuck-its.” We know we’re doing it– we know we’re numbing out, and we at that moment, don’t care. We eat All The Cake. Drink All The Wine. And maybe that’s part of your process to do that a few times. And if it is, when you’re done, check in to see how you feel.
How is your self-talk when that happens? Usually, not so good. I’d bet you’re beating yourself up for eating All The Cake, or drinking All The Wine. And you beat yourself up internally, then you feel like shit…and how do we stop feeling like shit? More cake and more wine.
This topic comes up a lot with my clients, and I always ask the same questions:
Are you doing it (insert numbing mechanism of choice) to consciously comfort yourself? Or are you doing it mindlessly, unconsciously hoping you’ll escape from your life and your struggles indefinitely?
If it’s the latter, then I ask: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Because it’s never about the cake or the wine or the Internet or the shoes. It’s about the problem– the pain/fear/hurt you’re trying to make go away.
And I think this goes without saying– but I’ll say it anyway– the pain never goes away. But, you– YOU have to get to a point where you’re done trying to escape from it. I can’t be the one to tell you the only way out is through and the way to “get over it” is to process it all. It’ll go in one ear and out the other until YOU are ready to stop running, turn around and look it in the face.
Escapism works until it doesn’t. And when it’s done working for you and you learn how to cope in healthier ways and learn to process feelings instead of numbing them, you’ll get to a point when you fall back on numbing and you’re all inside it and realize QUICKLY what you’re doing. And to be honest, that kind of sucks. It’s like that moment you’re arguing with someone and you suddenly realize you’re wrong and they’re right. DAMN. Do you stop and tell them? Or do you keep arguing your point? Both feel like shit. But one honors who you are.
So, when you’re ready, you’re ready. When escaping and numbing out aren’t working for you anymore, do the work to process, feel and cope with your emotions. I promise you won’t die. You’ll be stronger, more self-aware, more self-confident, and more of your biggest, most kick-ass self.
Need support with your inner-critic? Join me and lots of women just like you as I personally take you through the 7-Days of Courage Challenge! It’s one thing to read about it, but a whole nother animal when you put the tools into ACTION! We start April 3rd! Sign up for free here: