Some days are hard days. It’s part of being a human on this earth. Sometimes our emotions are so big we don’t know what to do with them. They feel intense and unmanageable. We may feel like the only thing there is to do is to just turn them off. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel and process these feelings, we go into “escape mode”.
Escape mode allows us to turn off those emotions and numb ourselves to the point that we can’t feel any of that bad stuff any more. No more hurt. It sounds ideal, right? People escape by binge watching videos on Netflix, youtube, or another streaming channel. They turn to food. They dive into social media, arguing on political or religious posts with strangers, or just adding tons of “friends” so there’s always something new and interesting to look at. They spend excess time on video games. They get caught up in addictions like drugs, alcohol, pornography. Sometimes escape can, on the outside, look like a good habit like reading. But if it allows you an escape from emotions instead of allowing you to process and deal with your emotions, it can still be unhealthy.
With all of these easy ways to escape, it is clear why people do it so often. Unfortunately, in the long run it does more harm than good. Those emotions don’t go away. They fester. We become dependent on these escapes because the hurt is so overwhelming. Our families suffer because we are no longer able to connect with them, because any chance of making our emotions vulnerable hurts too much.
So, what do you do? You feel the hurt. It sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It sucks to cry. Especially if you’ve been programmed by society to believe that it’s a sign of weakness. But you cry. You get angry. You punch a wall. You throw yourself on a bed and thrash around because there’s no other way to get that emotion out of your body.
In Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection, she likens it to intentionally pressing our finger against a thorn. Why would you do that? You do it because, when that emotion is out, you are able to downgrade it. Where there was abandonment, there is now loneliness. Where there was devastation, there is now hurt. Where there was rage, there is now frustration. Where there was loathing, there is now disappointment. You can’t live with rage, but you can live with frustration. And then you don’t have to turn to escape in order to deal with life.
Stay tuned for my post next week about what to do when you’re tempted by escape mode. When you’ve had a hard day and your brain says, “Let’s grab that big bag of candy and lay on the couch for 4 hours and fast forward through Pride and Prejudice to only watch the parts with Colin Firth”.