The Subconscious Practice of Building Escape Routes

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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We all know that choosing in life means losing out on something. When you choose pizza for dinner, you’ll miss out on the burger (or you’ll overeat and miss out on feeling good for the rest of the night). We’ve learned that making a definitive choice for one job, one house, one partner over another, means we won’t be getting that other job, that other house or another relationship.

As someone with a, mostly, avoidant attachment style, my way of coping with this fear of missing out has been a subconscious practice of building escape routes. These are little back doors that I put in place to make sure I have a way to get out of a situation when I want to.

Escape routes can take a variety of forms. It could be renting a home instead of buying one. Or you could work in one job but make sure you don’t get too attached to your colleagues. When my ex-husband and I got married at 20 and 21, we told each other the marriage would last as long as we were both happy in it. Having to express that out loud was a way for me to soothe that fear around making a definitive choice.

But, even though these escape routes might give some apparent mental ease, they also have side effects: they keep you from going all in. If you want to really make something of that home, or that job, or that relationship; going all in is what will make it grow exponentially. Keeping an escape route actively open costs energy and puts you on the sideline. You don’t put in the effort you need to to make it the success it could be.

There are few decisions I’ve made in my life in which I didn’t build in these escape routes, or couldn’t even if I wanted to. The most important one was the decision to have children. Once they’ve arrived, there’s no backing out. Even when things get rough, or when you’re not happy for a stretch of time, or when you doubt whether it was the right call, this is one decision you cannot turn back. Knowing that means that in my parenting, like in no other area of my life, I give 110% of myself. I study, I work at it, and as a result I can feel myself grow. I sit through the rough parts (and as other parents know, it’s a challenging job!)

I still struggle with closing those escape routes in other areas of my life. The idea is daunting and fills me with fear and anxiety. But I’ve learned to recognize my little back doors, and I’ve learned to question why I put them in place. I ask myself why I’m afraid of going all in and what I’m losing out on when I don’t. And when I feel ready to, I close them a little bit, and then a bit more. When I do, I feel how the energy I can put into that area of my life rises. It’s all the reward I need.

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