Pursuit of Calm #15

“Remember that your ruling reason becomes unconquerable when it rallies and relies on itself, so that it won’t do anything contrary to its own will, even if its position is irrational. How much more unconquerable if its judgements are careful and made rationally? Therefore, the mind freed from passions is an impenetrable fortress – a person has no more secure place of refuge for all time.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.48


The topic of my last post was ‘steadfastness’, with the underlying, but not so subtle message that if we’re truly wanting to secure long term growth in our well-being pursuits, then we need to recalibrate our lifestyle by unlearning the thinking and doing habits that keep up tired, anxious and unwell…the very habits we’re doing right now…the habits that we’ve been taking refuge in for decades.

[Refuge: a place or situation providing safety, comfort or shelter]

And this is no easy task, we have repeated the same emotionally triggered habits, so often, that it becomes unconscious behaviour, that we default to without even thinking. This is exactly why changing decades established thinking & habits is both daunting to approach, and difficult to relinquish – no matter how unhealthy they are.
You may of noticed that I persist with stating ‘thinking and doing habits’. No truer word said from the big kahuna Buddha when he said something along the lines of ‘what we think we become’. So, if we’re keen to begin the arduous process of recalibrating our actions and behaviours to nurture a calmer, more steadfast mind, then perhaps we need to begin addressing not only what we’re thinking, but also what we’re ‘feeding’ our minds. Surely, just like the food we eat, what we consume cognitively will play a pivotal role in our well-being.
Where’s Your Head At?
Self-Suppressive Escapism is a mental diversion from unpleasant or boring aspects of daily life, typically through activities that numb us and distract us from our reality. Escapism may be used to occupy one’s self away from persistent feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, depression and general sadness.

Self-suppressive escapism can take many forms, be it an over reliance on drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, social media, gambling, pornography, or a compulsive need to always being busy, working, shopping or socialising. What all these behaviours share is that they induce a cognitive narrowing whereby both awareness of our self and our critical evaluation of it is suppressed, or as a form of ‘Escape from Self’.

“Self-suppression, as well as the motivation to experience cognitive narrowing by means of these acts, may be interpreted as efforts for detaching oneself from disturbing elements of the self. When self-awareness becomes painful, activities that demand concrete actions are enacted in order to reduce the negative affects”
P.Kraft, J.Rise, F. Stenseng,
Activity Engagement as Escape from Self

It makes complete common sense that we should want to escape from a sense of self that is causing us to suffer. However the problem is the self-suppressive escapism is like spraying deodorant over soiled clothing. It may divert our attention from our psychological pain in the short term, but over time, it only exacerbates our underlying issues.

What many of us, probably most of us, if not all of us, who feel compelled to continually escape need, are not habits and behaviours that make us forget who we are, but a new self to escape to.

What we need is an opportunity to take refuge in what Roman philosopher Cicero called a second self.

What is a second self, how do we create one and how does it help us develop our personality, and ultimately, guide us to a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us?

I’ll attempt to answer those questions in my next post.


“We are at a time when old systems and ideas are being questioned and falling apart, and there is a great opportunity for something fresh to emerge. I have no idea what that will look like and no preconceptions about how things should turn out, but I do have a strong sense that the time we live in is a fertile ground for training in being open-minded and open-hearted.”

Welcoming the Unwelcome
– Pema Chödrön