Decision Making

Escapism

There are positive and negative ways we can try to escape from reality. The pros have roots in mental health benefits, such as increased relaxation, and decreased stress. The cons are typically based on the action being an avoidance behavior that delays inevitable conclusions. A positive example is when someone takes an hour out of their day for yoga to decompress, or allocates fifteen minutes in the morning and evening to pray or write. This would be a benefit of escaping reality. A negative instance is when an individual resorts to an activity like drinking or gambling to take them away from their day-to-day life. There is one type of escape that has traditionally be placed in the positive, or neutral group, which is watching sports. A recent study debunks a positive connotation and its conclusion is valuable, even if you don’t watch sports. The lessons are relevant for many activities we do on a daily basis, and it’s important we take this study and look at our choices to make sure what we think is positive behavior is truly benefiting us.

The study focused on a large group of attendees and viewers for the 2018 World Cup Final earlier this year. Fans in the study were rooting for France or Croatia; the two teams that played in the championship. The study broke up the fans into those that were at the event, and those that watched from afar. It then broke down the emotions based on the result of the match. French fans experienced victory, while Croatians felt defeat. The study gauged their emotions before, immediately after, and many hours after the event. The findings expected to show an excited fan experiencing more joy in victory, and sudden agony in defeat. This was the result, however, the degrees of enthusiasm, and dismay were what shocked the surveyors, especially those who attended the event.

Let’s start with those fans that attended the event. Both groups were nearly equally excited before the match began. The excitement was incredibly high. This is expected. They were attending an event that takes place every four years, and their nation was one match away from winning a prestigious trophy. The French fans are the first interesting takeaway from the study. They won, however, their excitement didn’t move much higher, and eventually fell below their original gauge prior to starting. Why? The excitement was already so heightened that it was difficult to further increase. This is similar to many instances in our lives that have tremendous build up. Think about graduations, weddings, and the first day of a new promotion. There simply isn’t much more room to go, largely because we already increased our excitement so high anticipating the event. We’ll come back and examine this emotion.

This leads us to our losers – the Croatians. The Croatians experienced a drop in happiness immediately after of epic proportions. In fact, the quantified plunge in happiness that the survey captured was bordering to that of the shock we experience when a loved one passes, or a dramatic event occurs such as a health emergency or natural disaster. This was shocking to the people conducting the study. How can someone watching a sporting event experience such a dramatic swing in emotions, especially a drop indicative of real catastrophes. The sudden, and dramatic drop in happiness barely recovered hours after. This huge swing of negative emotions actually lingered.

What about a regular fan who was simply watching at home? Both sets of fans experienced similar emotion trends, with the differences largely taking place on the victory. The emotion isn’t as heightened before the event, therefore, the people watching at home had a large spike of happiness immediately after the event if their team won. The people who experienced defeat lost about half the amount of emotion as their peers at the event, and again, this was because they were not as happy and excited before the event. They didn’t set themselves up to lose too much.


There are multiple lessons we can learn from this study, and they don’t have to exclusively focus on watching sports at home, or attending a sporting event at the venue of one of the teams we root for. The lessons are beneficial for any activity we take part in that likely sways emotions due to build ups from long-term emotional investments. This again, relates to graduations, weddings, and new promotions. It is relevant to things we train for like a marathon, or goals we set out to do, such as weight loss. It is also important to remember this study when dealing with relationships, such as friendships, family members, and love interests. All of these examples deal with heightened emotions, and rapid swings we can mentally prepare for ahead of time.

The answer is honest, self-examination. First, it is critical that we scrutinize activities and decisions we embark on ahead of time. What is our emotional investment, and what happens when the event concludes? The outcome is likely positive or negative. We must be honest with our self and test how we anticipate responding to each potential result. Does it still make sense for us to set out on the path?

Let’s breakdown each scenario –

  • An event that has tremendous buildup and likely ends positive. Examples of this are weddings, graduations, and job promotions
    • How to fill the natural void once the event is over
      • Be honest with ourselves and realize that a letdown will naturally occur, like it did for French fans at the World Cup. What will we do next to fill our daily routines and avoid falling into a trap once this event comes to a close?
  • An event that has the potential for in-person excitement, but could lead to in-person dismay. Examples of this are sporting events for teams or players (maybe family members, like a son or daughter) we root for, or competitions we, or family/friends/loved ones are striving for
    •   How to fill the void if we lose?
      •  Be honest with the reality that can come from this competition. What do we plan to do and how do we plan to react if we do not win? Is winning even the expectation? If not, what happens if we don’t complete the event, or finish in the place we intend to? Does the emotional investment allow the potential loss? If not, how can we change it to make it worthwhile?
  • An event that doesn’t have much buildup, but has potential to end poorly. Examples of these are friendships, family relationships, and love interests. Here, we are not expecting these relations to end poorly, but all three can. They can end with tragic shocks, such as death, but for the sake of this scenario, we are to look at them ending due to disagreements, or falling out of interest.
    • How do we emotionally prepare for this potential loss?
      • Truthfulness is key. All three of these relationships can bring us continual enjoyment, and therefore, can lead to huge voids if they go south. We need to ask how emotionally invested are we in this relationship, and is our investment equitable compared with the opposing side? If not, we need to lessen our interest, or increase it. It is only fair. We may not want to do this, and at that case, we should check if it makes sense for us to continue in its current state. We are likely setting someone else up for a huge emotional fall, or someone is potentially doing that to us. It is important to realize where a relationship stands.

The study is important to look at our own relationships and endeavors. We must realize that decisions should not purely be based on economic resources, such as time, and money. Choices are better made when based on other variables, like our own emotional happiness and lack thereof. We should stay vigilant of how our journey on any emotional roller coaster can end, and what will that do to us when it happens. Ask the tough questions, and scrutinize the feedback you give yourself. Make necessary changes ahead of the potential event, instead of being in a situation that catches you off guard. Staying emotionally healthy ensures you have adequate time to invest in other things, such as work, leisure, and relationships.

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