Do you know what I used to believe with every fiber of my being?
That I could run away from all of my problems.
It didn’t matter to me if it was an unhealthy romantic relationship, a bill collector’s phone calls, a nagging toothache, or a persistent sadness that I couldn’t seem to shake off, my solution was to avoid feeling it.
That’s because I believed that if I avoided my pain–or worse, if I ran in the opposite direction of my pain–it would eventually go away.
Yours won’t either.
If you’re running away from your demons right now, I can promise you that they will be waiting for you when you finally decide to stop running.
Even worse, at that point you’ll probably be too exhausted and too burned out to deal with those demons.
And it’s at that moment when they’ll win.
There’s a much better way, and just like everything else on this blog, it’s going to require some courage in order to make it happen.
The Only Way Out is Through
Just to make sure that we’re on the same page here, please don’t think that I’m saying that leaving a toxic relationship or quitting a soul-murdering job are examples of “running away from your problems.”
If you’ve made sincere attempts to deal with the issue and nothing has worked, you’re not “running away from your problems” if you choose to leave.
You’re making a conscious decision to positively reclaim your life.
Running away, on the other hand, is completely different. For example:
When I was in college, the brake pads in my car completely wore down. So, to avoid dealing with the fact that my brakes were about to completely give out, my “solution” was to turn up the radio in my car so loud that I wouldn’t hear my brakes grinding.
Yep, true story. That’s what running away looks like.
It’s sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that our problems will magically solve themselves.
It’s fleeing in the opposite direction of our pain and hoping that when we look over our shoulders it will be gone.
It’s numbing ourselves to the pain by drowning ourselves in alcohol/drugs, overeating, reckless gambling, sleeping around, excessive shopping, watching hours of television nonstop, or (feel free to insert any other unhealthy habit here).
None of the above will ever work. Our problems need to be faced.
Is it easy to deal with an emotionally-abusive significant other, the overdue bills that are piling up, or the frightening lump that you noticed growing near your rib cage?
But here’s the painful reality that I wish I knew years ago:
Our problems will continue to follow us (and get bigger and stronger) until we face them.
Your significant other will only get more abusive, the debt will only dig a deeper financial grave for you, and that lump will only begin to grow and spread, if you consistently choose to run away from them.
The only way out of a problem is to go through it.
Unfortunately, there’s still more discomfort that we’ll need to go through in order to be free.
Running From Our Pain
I’m sure that some of us can relate to running away from a difficult situation every now and then, but do you know something that almost all of us can relate to running away from?
If you’re reading these words, I know that you’ve felt significant emotional pain at least once in your life, right? I know that I have more times than I can count.
When I was dealing with deep emotional pain, my go-to coping mechanism was to stay super-busy.
I would bury myself into my job, basketball, or any other distraction to keep me from fully experiencing the emotional pain that was waiting for me.
But that was the problem. My pain waited patiently for me to acknowledge it, and it refused to go away until it did. Even worse, while it waited, it grew.
You already know that the pain of a broken leg won’t go away if you decide to ignore it by working 12-hour days at the office. So, why would our emotional pain be any different?
I’m not a therapist, but I do know what happened every time I avoided my feelings during times of intense emotional pain:
It severely prolonged the healing process.
The healing process only began when I allowed my feelings to wash over me, I took full ownership of those feelings without apology, and I gave myself permission to be pissed off and/or sad until I was ready to move on.
One thing is for sure: Running away from my emotional pain only made things worse.
As much as it sucks, there is no amount of avoidance in the universe that will help you to get over the loss of a loved one, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, a debilitating injury, deep feelings of inadequacy, or any other life-shattering situation.
We have to experience those painful feelings in order to begin the healing process.
That’s why this cannot be mentioned enough:
The only way out is through.
You Can’t Run Away From Yourself
Have you ever wondered why there are people who keep running into the same problems wherever they go?
They are sick of working with rude, backstabbing coworkers, so they quit their jobs only to find more rude, backstabbing coworkers in their new job.
They hate the people who live in their current city, so they pack up all of their stuff to move across the country, only to find the same kind of people in their new home city.
They believe that the problem exists outside of themselves, when in reality, they should be looking within.
This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, and as always, I want my ignorance and pain to lead to your happiness and peace of mind.
There is a reason why we can’t run away forever.
Our pain, our insecurities, and our unique challenges are a part of us.
Moving to another city or flying to another planet won’t keep you safe from these feelings–they will be with you wherever you go.
Numbing yourself with booze and drugs won’t make these feelings go away–they will be there once you sober up.
Working yourself past the point of human exhaustion won’t make you forget these feelings–they will force you to remember once you finally slow down.
There is only one option that makes sense, and this quote says it best:
You can’t run away from your problems. They will just chase you and get bigger and bigger. If you stand and face them, they will shrivel and disappear.” -W.H. Fordham
Problems are meant to be solved, and if you have the courage to face them directly, then you’ll realize this life-changing truth:
It is so much easier is to take a stand than it is to run away.
Do you run from your problems or do you face them directly? What is your best strategy for dealing with problems/challenges in your life? Jump into the comments and make your voice heard!