Mindfulness Versus Escapism

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The Here And Now Is Incompatible With Anxiety

The here and now focus that mindfulness entails is incompatible with anxiety in that anxiety is uncertainty around what might happen, meaning anxiety is pointed towards the future. So coming fully to the present moment is the antidote. When we can focus all of our being on some object of our mindfulness, whether it’s our breathing, eating, walking, or anything else, anxiety is reduced.

Of course the caveat is that what might look like mindfulness is often no more than escapism. People retreat into overworking, overeating, overexercising, overshopping, over this and over that, precisely because escaping into these areas offers a balm for painful existential anxiety.

So what’s the difference between mindfulness and escapism? The best answer might be that mindfulness is the conscious decision to turn towards life with all its possibilities, to embrace it, while escapism is the unconscious decision to turn away from life, to disown it.

Mindfulness and escapism both reduce anxiety but the first takes life as it is and makes the most of it while the second creates a seemingly more palatable substitute for life in the form of various items of consumption.

Anxiety Is A Human Problem That Demands A Solution

In human life anxiety is the problem par excellence, and the only real question is whether the solutions we take to combat that anxiety are healthy or unhealthy. The mindfulness solution is the healthy solution, it’s the solution to immerse ourselves fully in our immediate surroundings and therefore enter into life rather than run away from it. The escapism solution is one of many unhealthy solutions, it’s a solution to turn away from life rather than enter into it.