You Can’t Run Forever

Sad boy alone in a bare room

What you’re running from will find you.

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.

It didn’t. 

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.

Ready?

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?

No.

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?

Pain.

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.

What gives?

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.

Your Turn

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!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Good post today. Just putting this out there!!!

    Got me thinking how my life has panned out so far. I’ve got a young family, a wife and three kids, one boy and two girls. Not many friends and not much contact with my other siblings. I know what a loner! Guilty as charged!!

    I’ve always been a private individual and never really went out of my way to make friends, don’t get me wrong I’ve done plenty of partying and the like. It’s just when people start to talk to me it seems to me that it’s one big problem after the next.

    I used to try and keep up and come back with some of my own problems and that’s when I got stuck and became a bore because I didn’t have anything major to complain about like they did.
    Reason may be because I try to live by a principle that my parents shared with me and (they had many principles!) that’s never let anything hang over your head, translation deal with your problems. So I try to be a good son and live by that and boy has that caused me grief no end, sometimes to being excommunicated from a group to the ninth degree, or people avoiding you after initial contact.
    Simply because I haven’t got anything to gossip about concerning my private life and some insurmountable problem that can never be dealt with.

    Now why don’t I have much contact with my siblings it’s pretty much the same thing as above. They complain to you about each other or their spouse or children, like what am I supposed to do and because I don’t reciprocate with my own ‘my problems are so huge it’s phenomenal’ story they don’t keep in contact much especially as of recent times. Suits me because I got three kids and a wife to see too! I think I have enough on my plate.

    It’s not easy trying to live by some kind of principle.

    It’s a god send that I found this site truly!!! Because it’s lonely out here!!

    I’ve signed up a few days ago and got your free book. Good read and I will share it with those who are receptive.

    • Your parents taught you well, Oyenu! Even if it’s hard at first, and even if it isn’t always smooth sailing, the only option that truly makes sense is to find the courage to deal with your problems directly. Like you said, it isn’t always easy to live by some kind of principle, but in my experience it is so much harder to live without principles to guide you. Welcome aboard, and I’m thrilled that you found my free book useful!

  2. Just awesome Shola I feel I need to acknowledge and comment.
    Most times I tend to face my problems directly, but lately I’ve been a bit crap. The way that I’m dealing is starting to open and share my troubles rather than wearing that always happy clowns face.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tony! It takes courage to be open and share your challenges, rather than deny them by putting on a fake smile. Props to you for following your courage, my friend!

  3. Hi Shola, this is one I am still working on. I’m doing better, but it’s probably the old habit I still struggle with the most. You’re absolutely right, the problems don’t go away, they just get worse, and sooner or later there’s a crisis that totally interrupts your life and is very painful to deal with.

    You know, I finally started to understand that I was holding myself back by avoiding issues I did not want to confront. Those avoidance behaviors: busyness, food/alcohol/shopping, took their toll. I was wasting time, always busy but getting nothing accomplished, always in debt, and in really bad health for my age. So in addition to setting myself up for chronic catastrophes, I had a daily habit of putting obstructions in my path, so I could never be in the present moment. In setting up my days to ignore my problems, I had also insulated myself from noticing anything that was going on in my life, or even noticing that maybe I didn’t have much of a life. I’ve improved, though this one I think will be a lifelong challenge. Thank you for bringing it up for all to think about and discuss.

    • Donna, per usual you nailed it on the head. I couldn’t agree more–ignoring our problems will only lead to a crisis that has the potential to completely interrupt our lives in a very negative way. You have such a powerful way with words, and your comment gave me some serious insight into my own avoidance issues. Like you, I used to put obstructions in my path to keep me from focusing on the real issues that I needed to deal with. For example, I would subconsciously (or sometimes intentionally) create minor problems that would require my immediate attention (being late completing a work project) so that I would too busy to focus on my real problem (why was I so unhappy?) So, thank YOU for giving me some much-needed clarity on my previous avoidance behavior!

      The truth is that our problems need to be dealt with, and even though I know this, just like you, I’ll be dealing with this challenge for the rest of my life. I’ll be fighting right next to you, Donna! 🙂

      • Thank you Shola, for running your blog in a way that you welcome comments from readers. Each week you post a topic, that gives us something to think about, and to do a little soul-searching. Then the comments from everyone, and your responses, expand our understanding further. I am so grateful I found The Positivity Solution, although I would have named it “Weekly Attitude Adjustment”. =-)

  4. Shola,
    Thanks for sharing this. I am the king of avoidance. As you know, I’ve been through a great deal of shit in the past 2 years. Divorce, quitting my career, starting from scratch…
    I have found a way to lose myself in things like blogging, exercise, and video games as a way to “forget” the pain and stress of much of this. And you’re right, I have to face it head on or it will grow.

    • Amen Steve! This blog post was written from a place of pain and very real experience, because I am a recovering “problem-avoider” too. This is one of my “eat your vegetables” type of posts–we might not enjoy doing it (in the case, confronting our problems), but in the end, it’s for our own good. Avoiding our problems is a recipe for a slow death…and it took me damn near most of my adult life to make that realization. Congrats to you having the guts to confront the major problems in your life (bad marriage and terrible job) and make the necessary changes. Not many people have the courage to do that, and for that you should be giving yourself a much-deserved pat on the back.

  5. Three words for this entry.. YES YES YES… once someone grabs this mindset and DEALS with the underlying issue?? Nothing and I mean NOTHING can stop that person from healing and moving forward in life. I know, I used to be one that would just run from my problems, but I learned the hard way.. as I kept falling back into old bad habits to ‘numb’ the pain.. and it kept biting me in the behind.. once I faced the true, deep rooted issue(s).. I dealt with them, solved them and moving forward in life! EXCELLENT entry, Shola!

    • Thanks Kristen! Yes, I completely agree–healing can only begin once a person finds the courage to directly deal with the real issues in their lives. Numbing the pain, as I know TOO well, can only give you peace temporarily…but unfortunately, that “peace” comes at a severe emotional cost down the road. Huge congrats to you for staring down your own personal demons in order to fully claim the life that you deserve. Well done!

  6. Hey Shola,

    Thanks for your post. I have been living in the same crappy apartment because the rent was so cheap. The superintendant smokes in the hallway, hits on me, screams insults at me and others when drunk, neglects basic repairs and bothers my guests. I kept complaining to the property manager who ignored me. Finally a real crisis happened. Happily I got married this July, but last Saturday night the drunken superintendant banged repeatedly on my door over lint in the dryer screen (not left by me) He then proceeded to scream all sorts of racist rubbish at my husband and used every insulting word but I stepped out and videotaped his entire stream of nonsense. Until now I have felt trapped because the rent is cheap. But tomorrow I am going to confront the property manager and seek legal help to leave as soon as possible.
    Staying positive, blogging constructively about my frustrations and lots of community building and spiritual work have helped me grow past my fears and procrastination. My husband says, “Cheap service is never good. Good service is never cheap.”

  7. This post has really hit that aching spot in me. I have always been running away from all of my problems. I always thought that when I do that, things will be forgotten and will eventually be alright. I was so wrong that I only end up cleaning up the mess of a worse situation when it would have been so much easier taking on it because it grew so bad.

    As Gus from the Fault in Our Stars said, pain demands to be felt. No one can ever run away from it. I have experienced it before and I still do it now, I don’t know why. But somewhere down the line, I end up facing it because there’s no other way. But once you get yourself through the biggest worst pain or problem in your life, it feels so liberating. It’s like a thorn that has punctured your foot for hours was finally removed or like a tooth that’s been aching for a long time was finally pulled out by the dentist. You just have to find people who can help you or at least someone you can talk to about it. Pain is easier to be faced when you’re helped by the right people.

  8. Hi,

    This post was a bulls eye about problems and our ways to approach them. Personally though, I’m still trying to find my peace. I’m someone who is unadaptable to change, almost. Especially change that involves me being away from familiar surroundings. And previously, whenever somebody hit the change button, I’ve always had the lucky way out. But that isn’t the case now. I’m out of town for some months, and I made this decision myself. However, now that I’m out, I don’t like it at all, and again my mind is looking for the easy way out, to go back and be in my comfort zone again. Like I’ve always done. Somehow. All the courage i mustered for this decision has now vanished. I don’t know whether to encourage this thought, or whether to stick it out. I’m lost, and confused. Please help..: (

  9. I find myself in what you have written, so much so that it brings back the guilt of putting everything on hold, hoping that there will be a better time to approach the problems.
    From the relationship with my family and loss of a loved person to getting myself to extract my last wiz tooth. Everything that serves as a distraction gets priority. Going out, booze, tv series, cigarettes and then even chores, college work, washing my car, gym, whatever makes me forget the things I have little control over.

  10. I stumbled across this article when I was looking for some advice for my own problems and I truly can say that this is a god send. I never was fully conscious of this coping mechanism that I had (which was running away from my problems) until I read this article. Sadly I’ve notice that it might have originated from my mother since she has it as well. Thank you so much posting this article. I’m very grateful for giving me the tools to help myself.

  11. WorkinProgress says:

    So i understand that i need to face my problems and for me i run away because of the fear i feel when i anticpate dealing with the problem. also i’m really lazy and exerting effort is painful (i know that last bit of the sentence is just as pathetic as excuese get but it’s true) but when i try to make an improvement it’s hard for me because that requires effort, i struggle with exerting effort basically. So let’s say i actually manage to drag my lazy self up and deal with the issue and i try and fail the first time in dealing with my problem (quitting a bad habit). Well people say if at first you don’t succeed you need to try again and continue for as long as it takes and that’s hard for me to try again, in fact it’s hard for me to jut start. What can i do about this idk any tips or suggestions you’ve found when you just feel like quitting?
    -also if i do choose to face my problem i’m making a bit of an adjustment going from running away from my problems (with entertainment and tv) to actually facing my problems which means feeling more discomfort so i was just wondering this may seem like a silly question but what’s the benefit of facing a problem, what does it look like when you find the solution to your problem? aka leave the bad habit you have, will one be happy and okay without that bad habit in their life? (sorry if that’s a question that can’t really be answered), i guess i need motivation to help me look forward to something while dealing with all the discomfort that comes with facing a problem so that i can remind myself there’s a reason for going through all this pain (what can i tell myself for sure that can be used as motivation?)

    • Hey Workinprogress,
      I stumbled across this post while procrastinating on college work because obviously, I’m running from my problems.
      However, after reading your reply I hear a lot of myself in it.
      You say you feel too lazy to do anything. Maybe the things you are doing aren’t fulfilling your needs and passions/desires.
      I failed an entire year of university because I was lying to myself about my major to keep my parents happy. There were days I couldn’t get out of my bed.
      I was later diagnosed with depression which triggered my anxiety which is the feeling I get (and likely you as well) whenever I have to do something important that I think I may fail at/ whenever I am putting something off. It’s very discomforting and it can get worse.
      Bad habits are hard to break but often times, if they are what you are using to cope, they can be holding you back from freeing yourself of your laziness”.
      You should focus on a time when perhaps you were able to perform more efficiently than you are now. I promise the feeling doesn’t always go away immediately but the relief is the best thing in the world and you will feel true joy. Not the fleeting joy we feel when we are distancing ourselves from our problems.

      Wishing you all the best,
      Camille

  12. I’m going through something very tough and i keep pushing away the inevitable and am prolonging the pain. The pain is getting bigger and bigger. I dunno what to do cause i chicken out of it when i try and deal with it. I cant bear the fact that my actions will hurt someone. i have two options but chosing either will hurt people who are very near and dear to me. I have lost friends over the years cause i was not ready to face my problem, now i feel lonely, im dealing with the entire situation alone and its eating me away on the inside slowly. I’m getting unwanted thoughts, i want a bigger pain so that i dont feel this pain. I’m scared to hurt anyone.

    • Losing others is better than losing yourself. Also, people who are meant to be there. Will be there.
      I hope everything gets better.

  13. I have been facing with a conflict where I did not do anything wrong, I was just running away from the situation. There were no proper response from the other end and being abusive, I decided to stop talking. I think moving out is the best option now, what do you suggest?

  14. Colleen Ondechek says:

    I am afraid to speak my mind for I avoid confrontation. I have tried several times to express how I feel and have had my feelings validated as to why I shouldn’t feel that why. I was married to a narcissistic person and could not express my feelings for I would be told what I should do or feel. He has taught our children to treat me the same. I went through a brutal child custody and felt like the courts were against me for my narcissistic ex could make himself look good and me at fault. I don’t know how to speak up for myself.

  15. How do you face the problems?

    Can you tell us how you faced yours?

    What did you do? And have your problems been completely gone, or still around your front door?

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