What do you lose yourself in?
And – as strange a question as this sounds – is it worthy of your ‘lostness’?
There are plenty of things in which we get completely absorbed – and many of these are harmless or indeed healthy. We can lose ourselves in wonder, in moments of delight, in celebration. But what claims us beyond what it should – and can we extricate ourselves from it? It may be something that meets an initial need, or appears to, but proves to be more toxic than we realise. That which seemed, at one sip, to be medicinal, in large doses turns out to be poison.
Something might give us immediate pleasure or distraction or comfort but can drain us of energy – emotional, mental and spiritual.
I say again, in what are you inclined lose yourself? Is it worth it?
I squint in the light of day, and my mind does a turnabout as it readjusts to reality. I’ve just emerged from a cinema on a rainy day off, have spent over two hours immersed in a film. I enjoyed this immersion, this escape into a compelling story and feel disconcerted at standing in a drizzly carpark instead of riding the waves of someone else’s imagination (or relief, if the film was terrible!).
Or perhaps I am rising from an armchair, rubbing my stiff neck and blinking, sliding the bookmark between two crisp pages as I am required to stop reading by someone or something needing my attention, or because the pain in my shoulders or the tiredness of my eyes has become too pronounced to ignore.
Or perhaps I ‘coming to’ from the sweet elixir of my own daydreaming; stories weaving in my own mind.
Perhaps I’ve been writing, as I am doing now, and sit back in my chair as I come to a natural conclusion, or am interrupted by something outside of my ‘zone’.
In all of these I have a sense of re-emergence – for a while I was somewhere else.
That’s the appeal of escapism. For a moment, the rest of the world is shut out from my consciousness as I embark on a dalliance with a different reality, or at least a more specific one. Is there anything wrong with a bit of ‘harmless escapism’? Well, no, because it’s harmless, isn’t it? But is there such a thing as harmful escapism?
Consider a simple, innocuous daydream. What if it becomes a complex, all-absorbing fantasy where our loyalty shifts to the heroes constructed in our minds (perhaps the creative types are more prone to this!)?
We can get absorbed in and by so many things: watching and playing and feeling and listening and reading and eating and shopping and drinking and dreaming…what if what I am losing myself in is shadowy – grounded in hate or lust or greed or envy? Do we take ‘retail therapy’ to extremes? Playing a video game so much that real life recedes?
What if we are so addicted to an on-screen story that we start withdrawing from our own lives? What if the film or the TV series or the book or the game or other media or the daydream becomes not nourishing but compulsive in a less than helpful way? What if we begin to use these things – whatever the things are that absorb you – as props for ourselves, as distractions from real feelings, as mini gods which demand our attention?
What if eating becomes the only way to distract us from what we are feeling? What if cutting our own skin becomes our means of coping? What if ‘losing ourselves’ becomes the goal, because the last thing we want to do is discover who it is we have become?
What if our thoughts become less than worthy; what if our desires get a bit warped, what if our eyes stray where they shouldn’t? What if escapism becomes an idol because we cannot find meaning of our own?
WHAT IF… [insert your own story here]?
A story has power – but which story have we made our own? Is the story we tell ourselves life-giving or toxic? Does it become a prison we’ve made for ourselves? Depression or regret that you feel at the constriction of your prison can drive you back into it, in order to distract you from the regret. It only fuels the power of addiction.
The food, the fantasy or feeling becomes your motivator, the overwhelming influence of your daily life. The things in which we absorb ourselves become the things that absorb us – the control subtly shifts as we no longer act through choice but apparent necessity – we no longer know how to resist it , even if we despise ourselves for it.
Some readers will immediately know where this is relevant in their lives, but I’d encourage you to look beyond the obvious and ask yourself what, in your life, exercises power over you – and is it more influential than it should be?
What life choices are driven by the need to escape from ourselves?
Confession time – this was in the first draft of Undivided Heart but didn’t make the final cut, so I thought I’d share it here as one of my ‘interesting tangents’!
You can read what did make the book when it comes out… on 26th October this year.
Read more about the book here.