Repressed anger or sadness can stem from a childhood where you were taught it’s ‘bad’ to feel and express certain emotions.
Or it could be that you are repressing thoughts and feelings from a recent life change. Did you take a new job, move house, are you in a new relationship? It might be that you are simply not being honest with yourself about the situation.
Often, however, escape behaviours are used to hide from memories and feelings of a distant or even forgotten childhood trauma. This can include abandonment, bereavement, and physical or sexual abuse.
But surely this habit is normal?! I’ve done it forever…
“But I’ve done everything on the above list at some point. Surely things like TV watching and texting are normal?”
Short term use of escape habits is indeed normal. Eating a tub of ice cream every night post breakup to distract yourself from crying is a classic example, as is binge watching TV after a hellish week at work. The difference here is that we are completely conscious of what we are doing. We mentally choose to ‘escape’. We actually are not hiding from what we feel, but taking a break.
But when it comes to long-term reliance on distractions?
It depends on how much you are doing such habits, the ways you indulge, and why.
Questions to ask to determine if your daily distraction habit might hide something
If someone upsets me, or I have a ‘bad day’, do I immediately turn to this activity?
Do I use this activity whenever I ‘feel bored’?
Do I feel comfortably numbed out after I indulge this habit?
Does the rest of the world fade back a little, or even disappear, when I do this activity?
Do I often lose track of time entirely when using this habit?
If someone asked me to give this habit up for a week, would I feel anxious?
Have I ever found myself halfway through using this habit before realising I was doing so? Or had a feeling of ‘coming to’ midway, as if from a trance?
Is this a habit I often turn to when I have to spend time alone? Do I perhaps even prefer doing this thing alone?
Has anyone ever accused me of having a problem with this habit but I’ve denied it?
Have I been accused of being emotionally repressed, ‘shut off’, ‘hard to read’, or ‘cold’?
Have I ever lied and said I had something important to do so I could go home and indulge my habit? Like saying I had to work then going home and binge watching TV instead of going to a dinner party?
Is my hobby a secret? Do you overeat in secret, have textathons with an ex in secret, spend hours at night cruising the internet in secret, hide your trashy romance novels from your friends?
If you answered yes to several or many of the above, there is a good chance you are using your habit to escape yourself.
Using habits to escape uncomfortable thoughts and feelings might have been a very useful coping mechanism when you were younger. As a child or adolescent, overeating or playing endless video games might have been the only resort available to things you felt you couldn’t control. The problem is that spending your entire adult life in distraction mode stops being intelligent or helpful.
Using habits of distraction can mean the following:
Ultimately, the help of a professional is advised. Repressed emotions and memories can be overwhelming to navigate alone, and friends and family can be too invested to be the help they mean to be. It can be a huge relief to have the unbiased support a counsellor or psychotherapist provides.
Harley Therapy puts you in touch with counsellors and psychotherapists who can help you navigate repressed emotions and experiences. Not in the UK? We can also connect you with experienced Skype Therapists wherever you are.
Still have a question about daily distractions and what they can mean? Or want to share an experience with our readers? Post below.