You Might be Addicted to the Life You’re Trying to Escape
Yesterday one of my friends put a comment on Facebook in response to my post about why you should stop living in a world based on rules that said “stop writing such great blog posts. You make me want to quit my job and leave the country.” While I was flattered by the compliment, it made me want to examine this in a bit more depth. If there are so many people who are living a life that they are continually trying to escape, is it possible that they might actually be addicted to the life they are trying to escape? If we start to look closely at it, the lives we live, even when we seem intent on escaping them satisfy some basic human needs. I think we also need to examine what’s causing this addiction.
3 Needs that this Addiction Satisfies
- Security: Life as you know it is secure. After all it’s what you’re used to. You know it kind of works even though it’s not ideal. It’s easy to forget that risk, reward, and bliss are all tied together. Most people will settle for average rather than risk the potential for spectacular. It’s understandable considering that taking a risk could result in ending up far below average. I should know. I spent close to a year living at my parent’s house at the age of 31. Not so glamorous. But as I said once before, the payoff is worth anything you have to go through.
- Comfort: Life as you know it is comfortable. It’s odd how something that you seem intent on escaping becomes comfortable. It’s like staying in a relationship because the sex is good and everything else about it sucks. Eventually you become so used to things that you don’t like about the situation that you actually find comfort in them. It’s kind of sick when you think about it, but I think on some level it is satisfying a basic need that we have.
- Certainty: The other day I was listening this awesome TED talk from Tony Robbins where he asked whether people liked surprises and he said “bullshit. You only like the good surprises.” The life we’re trying to escape doesn’t have too many surprises that we don’t expect. You won’t find yourself stranded with no money in a developing country, using your limited knowledge of the local language to get out of a mess too often. (Yes I’m speaking from experience). If you keep living the life you’re trying to escape, there won’t be many surprises. Personally I think that this is a really limited spectrum view of what life has to offer.
Causes of the addiction
- Social Programming: Our social programming is one of the most insidious aspects of the society we live in. It creates fear, doubt, disbelief and essentially traps people into the matrix, a mental prison that you don’t even know you’re in. Once you’re in it, overcoming your addiction to the life you’re trying to escape almost becomes impossible to stop. I may be Indian and while I think I come from a culture of expectations, I think that society as a whole has certain expectations. Go to school, get a job, pay taxes, don’t ask too many question, retire , and attempt to travel the world, and hope that you don’t die with any regrets. If you start to live in a world that’s not based on rules, the system in place might start to fall apart. Zen Buddhist monks don’t exactly make the best consumers .
- Instant Gratification: Instant gratification is another deadly cause of this addiction. It provides you a temporary escape that’s completely dependent on some external factor. It’s actually an ideal solution to keep your addiction in place because it gives you a momentary glimmer of hope and then pulls you back into the addiction of the life you’re trying to escape, so you can repeat this pattern over and over again. Take a vacation once a year, buy a new handbag, buy a new BMW, and when it it’s longer satisfying you, get back to work so that you can start planning for your next vacation, next new car, or whatever the hell it is that’s going to give you a momentary sense of relief.
Overcoming the addiction will require a leap of faith. It’s about making a short term sacrifice for a long term gain. Do you have the guts to take a chance?
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