How often do you feel you escape from your day? Perhaps you escape in your mind to a fantasy world or a mental to-do list? Perhaps you notice that you are continually breaking away from a task at hand to fuss with something, grab a snack, make a call, or check your phone? For some, it seems escaping tallies up to be a great deal of their day with little to show for the passing hours. It kind of boils down to – are you escaping to something, or are you escaping from something?

When we are escaping to something that, in my mind, is based in inspiration. Despite studying counseling one of my great fascinations is architecture. I’m endlessly intrigued by unique home designs. I find that at points throughout my day I am escaping my present life to allow my mind to dance in inspiration. There is no anxiety in escaping to, it’s pleasurable and, ideally, ultimately serving your life from a wider perspective. This form of escaping, escaping to, can serve as a motivator, bring a sense of optimism, aspiration, and strengthened hope. It’s also a form of escape that you can gracefully pull yourself back from, without any true internal conflict, and move forward about your day.

However, there is also escaping from. This tends to be anxiety-producing or self-defeating. A type of self-soothing that is not actually aligned to what you are wanting for your life – such as escaping to the fridge. This might show itself during times of distress or it might now be a habit, but ultimately it is based on our emotional world. If we are feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, we may find ourselves endlessly checking our email or popping in on social media. If our schedules are so bogged down that we have no personal time, we may find ourselves escaping in our minds to happier memories or a fantasy world that allows us more air to breathe. And, so often, escaping from is also aligned to a deeper belief that we hold about ourselves, others, or the world, and the impact of that has us unable to stay focused to our obligations or relationships.

I counsel for a community college and, so often, I hear about students who feel distracted when trying to study. Consequently, this escaping from their task at hand costs them valuable time and creates emotional distress as well as pure anxiety. Typically, when we investigate on this further, it is concentrated around a belief about themselves. A belief that they are not smart enough to ingest the material. A belief that their life is not intended for great things. A belief that they are not worthy of their dreams, or happiness, or success. So, when reading along and the text gets tricky, that belief switch is flipped, and suddenly they find themselves scrolling through trivial YouTube videos, or taking a nap, or grabbing a snack, or making a phone call. Inevitably, they are unconsciously securing their belief by creating more obstacles to overcome and, more often than not, much more anxiety for themselves.

None of us want to feel like we are drowning. So, when these deeper beliefs are triggered we tend to move to safer ground, where we don’t feel immediately challenged. I say immediately because, if every time we feel this belief kick in we get up to get a snack, well, eventually, we are going to be asked to deal with additional challenges to our being via our health. If, we find ourselves on our phone and the reading is not completed, or we haven’t absorbed it, our grades will surely reflect that. If we are triggered and take a fantasy through our mind, only to find significant time has passed, this will surely keep us from time with family and friends, creating additional challenges in our life.

Understanding how you escape, and if you are escaping to or escaping from, is critical to the whole of your life. One task I often ask of my clients is to, when they feel themselves wanting to escape from what they are doing, to insist they don’t and then listen to what their mind begins telling them. It’s in those words that our beliefs can be discovered. I encourage you to try this and see what you discover.