to top

The Law Of Diminishing Returns As Applied To ‘Fleeing’

The pressure we are under when we have no being (but only the ‘pseudo-being’ of conditioned or rule-based existence) is both relentless and uncompromising. It gives us no leeway, it cuts no deals. There is only one option left open to us and that is the option of running! As long as we are 100% committed to fleeing, we can do anything we want – the only snag here being that when we’re 100% committed to fleeing we have no awareness left over to pay attention to anything that doesn’t help us with our fleeing. Fleeing is all we are allowed to care about. Our world shrinks as much as it ever could shrink, therefore – there’s nothing as shrunken as the world of fleeing…



The only option that is left to us in this realm is ‘the option of having no options’, in other words. The only freedom we have left to us is the freedom to have no freedom, i.e. the freedom not to be free. In a way therefore – in a perverse sort of way – the pressure to flee from the truth (which always operates on us when we are in the conditioned realm) does cut us a deal. It cuts us a deal but it’s not a very good one – it grants us the possibility of creating an imaginary world for ourselves in which we are not afraid. This is the world which we build for ourselves out of our fear; we’re too afraid to allow ourselves to see that we are afraid and so we make up a reality for ourselves in which we are not afraid, a ‘safe reality’ in which there is no fear. This made-up reality serves a shield which we can use against the truth.



To start off with, therefore, we flee from Universal Truth – we flee from the truth that is in everything, the truth that is everywhere. This is the first move. Then, as a necessary second step (a step that is an inherent and inescapable part of the logic of fleeing from the truth) we flee from the truth of seeing that we are fleeing from the truth. Our way of fleeing from seeing that we are fleeing is to retreat into the Concrete World (or Designed World), which is ‘the world of dead, inanimate things’. This is the world in which things are only ever what they are said to be – there’s nothing behind the label therefore, nothing behind the façade. That’s how the concrete world protects us – we don’t want for there to be anything behind the label, we don’t want for there to be anything behind the façade! We’re very afraid of what might lies behind the two-dimensional façade, behind the blank labels that have been formulated by the conceptual mind. This fear is after all why we have created this Concrete World, this world where things are only ever what the thinking (or ‘labelling’) mind says they are!



The Concrete World is the world is the world that is made by our fear. It is our fear made concrete, our fear made into some kind of ‘inert material’. This is the process that RD Laing calls petrification, the process in which we – out of our terror of openness – turn ourselves into stone. What could be less open than stone, after all? What could be safer than to retreat completely? We reject ‘open’ and opt instead for ‘closed’  and when everything gets closed down on us then we’re ‘locked in’. When we turn our backs on the intrinsic openness then we end up in the Closed World, the Concrete World, the World in which Everything is Defined and anything undefined is only waiting to be defined. This is a world in which there are no big questions (no answerable questions) only small questions that are really nothing other than our own anodyne assumptions reflected faithfully back at us.



Initially – on a short-term basis – this is a very successful exercise. The illusion is complete and it is a very plausible one. It is so plausible that we couldn’t disbelieve it even if we wanted to! We are compelled to believe in this illusion – we are obliged to do so whether we want to or not. We are provided with a ridiculously crude picture of the world and the capacity of question it or see through it is ‘knocked out of us’, so to speak. We are rendered dumb, and that’s what we wanted all along. The illusion is complete and so the pressure is taken off us (or at least so it seems). We no longer know that we’re fleeing; we can kick back and relax in our imaginary world, the world that exists in denial of Universal Openness. There is an intense feeling of relief – an addictive sense of relief that the hardest currency there is in this world. It is actually the only currency there is in the Concrete World – it’s the ‘only thing that’s worth anything’. That’s what we trade in; everything else is fairy-tales, everything else is moonshine….



Anything that adds to our sense of security will provide us with this euphoric uplift, this profound sense of relief – possessions, money, the sense of being in control, having power over other people, status or approval in society, someone telling us that we’re ‘doing the right thing’, the feeling of accomplishment in achieving officially designated goals or benchmarks. These are of course all the things that motivate us in everyday life – we do whatever we need to do in order to obtain the pleasant feeling of being secure and avoid the disagreeable feeling of being insecure. This is what life in the conditioned realm is really all about – a very basic tropism towards comfort and away from discomfort. We dress up this very bare motivational framework to look more glamorous; we attach imaginary values such as morality, societal or religious correctness, or ‘glamour’ to the things that we do and this smokescreen allows to believe that we are engaged in doing something other than what we are actually doing, which is ‘shoring up our imaginary sense of security’ or ‘reinforcing the comfort-providing illusion’. The ‘comfort-producing illusion’ that we are talking about here is nothing other than the illusion of the self-concept and the relief we mentioned is the $200 we collect and put in our pocket when we ‘pass Go‘!



The fact that the sense of security that we’re chasing is illusory / imaginary means of course that we can never really get our hands on it. It’s not there and so naturally we can’t get our hands on it! When we feel good therefore it’s not because we have actually obtained the special ingredient which is ‘security’, but rather because we have allowed ourselves to believe that we definitely are going to obtain it, at some point in the future. Euphoria equals nothing other ‘a belief in future security’. The concrete mind offers us a cast-iron guarantee that we are going to receive the boon of security and we take this guarantee at face value. The concrete mind guarantees us security just as long as we jump through all the hoops it holds in front of us and so we willingly comply. Even when the boon that has been promised fails to materialize and we are told that we have to jump through another set of hoops, we obediently go along with it. What choice do we have, after all?



The special deal that our master Fear has cut for us is precisely this therefore – that we shall be allowed to believe in the (false) promise that has been made to us, even though there never was any chance of it actually being kept. We are to be allowed to believe in the illusion of security (even though there is no such thing and we will – on this account – never be able to get our hands on it). Put like this, of course, the deal that we have so unwisely signed up to doesn’t look so great. The only option that we have been given (which means of course that it isn’t really ‘an option’) is the option of carrying on running. ‘You have the option of fleeing’, says our master Fear, magnanimously. Only it’s not really an option because we don’t have any other choice. We have the option of running, but this doesn’t mean that we ever had any chance of actually escaping however…



‘Fleeing’ means ‘trying to move from a position of less security to a position of more security’. We’re only fleeing because we perceive there to be somewhere to actually flee to, in other words. There is no incentive to flee unless there is the illusion of escape. In the case that we are talking about here we are creating this illusion for ourselves as a type of ‘desperate, last-ditch stratagem’. Or we could also say that we are buying into the illusion of escape that the thinking mind is creating for us with its way of categorizing the world. The thinking mind always creates – by its very mode of functioning – two poles and so ‘escape’ is necessarily construed in terms of the movement from the negative to the positive. But then as soon as we get there everything flips over (because the positive is the negative) and we have to start all over again. Trying to escape within the terms of the polar mind simply starts up a vibration, in other words, and there’s no way we can get out of a vibration by using the same thinking mind that got us in it!



We can’t get out of the vibration by using the thinking mind and – what is worse – the degree of suffering that it entails necessarily keeps on intensifying. The vibration keeps on getting greater cruder and cruder as time goes on, and as it does so our suffering grows. The ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’ comes into effect just as soon as we start trying to escape from the reality of openness and this means that we have to put more and more effort into achieving the same result. And not only this, we never do achieve the same result – the sense of relief we obtain as a result of our manoeuvre keeps on getting less, no matter how much effort we put into it. We’re heading down an entropic slope and there’s nothing we can do about this. The Law of Diminishing Returns means in this context that we have to invest ourselves more and more in the game to order to obtain some kind of ‘believable illusion of security’. So the LODR means that each time we run through our routine of ‘things that we do in order to obtain a  worthwhile sense of security, the euphoric reward we get as a result of jumping through all the hoops gets less and less intense, less and less ‘what we want or need it to be’. This is a phenomenon that is deeply familiar to an user of euphoric drugs – all we can ever do is keep on ‘upping the ante’ and even then we’re never actually manage get back to the place we want to be. We’re falling short every time…



We can also look at this the other way around and say that the LODR means that we have to keep on running faster and faster in order to get the feeling that we are in any way escaping from whatever it is that we are running away from. This is a phenomenon that we are all familiar with from nightmares – we’re running away from the terror as much as we are able but we’re not actually getting away! This then is the LODR as applied to fleeing! Clearly this isn’t a very pleasant prospect – far from being pleasant it is actually as we have just said nightmarish. We can see at a glance where we’re going to end up – we’re going to end up in the situation of running like crazy, absolutely desperate to escape whatever it is that we’re scared of, yet knowing at this stage that we can’t. We’ve reached the end of the line and this is where we were headed all along, no matter what we might have allowed ourselves to think to the contrary. Saying that the deal which we have signed up to is not a good one is a tremendous understatement therefore – the nature of the deal that we have – so very unwisely – signed up to is truly diabolical. This is what we get for ‘looking for ontological security’ – we get to the same place in the end (i.e. reality), but we do so via the most painful route possible…




Image taken from










  • Rashid Dossett

    Worldly people NEED something or better said SOMEONE to project their pain-avoidance upon. Once they found someone – or they are provided someone or some group to blame – they then solidify their avoidance by acting out against the target to ‘justify’ their collective validated will (also known as society). This is what mass media is aware off – that is why propaganda works so well (99% of the time). Most people, because this trick of escaping works so well, never realise that they have been tricked by their own involvement of holding unto the false security of self-validation. It often takes many trials or enduring much difficulty for people to notice that something isn’t right and even then only a minority of people will see through the deception – most people will repress any knowledge of DELIVERANCE and they will prefer the endless loop of escapism because without this endless loop there is no self-validation (which is the false security they have invested everything into). This thinking is quite perverted and outright horrible when you see how far worldlings are willingly to go to prevent others from being delivered.

    March 3, 2018 at 9:49 pm Reply
  • John

    Hey there, Nick,

    Thanks for writing such thought provoking posts. I get the whole “negative psychology” vibe of your site, and I find myself in agreement with a lot of what you write. However, I also notice a lack of any kind of goal or helpful advice? And perhaps this is intentional, again, by going back to the whole “negative psychology” deal. But surely you see that there truly are ways and methods by which one can reduce suffering, even if only their own. Indeed, why else would you have made this site without some kind of hope for that, because if you were truly a “negative psychologist,” you wouldn’t even begin to write!!

    In this spirit, I find some of what you write above in need of deeper analysis.

    First point: Who exactly would you characterize as “fleeing”, using your definition and vocabulary? What percentage of the population would fall under this description, as you intend it? 99% 90% 60% All of us? If so, then this includes you, Nick, so how could we possibly trust the clear ruminations of a fellow “flee er”. Clearly it must be an alarming number (as fleeing, by definition, should be), else you would not have chosen the behavior as a topic of merit for your post. And going further, are there any clear and distinctive marks that define someone as “fleeing”? And if they encounter your definition and outline of the issue, and if they disagree that they are part of the “fleeing” population, has your argument as you have laid it out above immunized you to just such objections? Because that is exactly what “fleeing” people say? I think it would be a worthy exercise to consider this – from one internet stranger to another.

    Second point: Who says smokescreens are bad? Or automatically bad? Or screens in general? I assume you have read some Nietzsche. He was a radical perspectivist and believed that there are only (smoke)screens. What exactly are you proposing that is more or less than another screen upon which to project some “new normal.” IE the reality that “you are fleeing”. OK, who, me? If I can’t even formulate a definition of myself without immediately being accused of fleeing, because I am trying to form a model, does this count as fleeing? Or are you trying to inculcate fleeing as a default reading behavior of your audience to deflect any criticism or rational thought? What are your motives, anyway?

    Final point: Consider your audience. If a homeless man (most homeless are men) encountered this article in a public library, should he take it on board wholeheartedly and give up the “smoke screen” of being homeless, (probably) lonely, and hungry? If so, how? And believe you me, this is a man that knows full well the abyss of the now that you have written about in another post, probably better than even you. Should he stop trying to find “ontological security”? A job, a bed, a relationship… does it all just boil down to fleeing from the “truth”, as you have described it? And so what’s he supposed to do now, then, anyway?

    None of these comments are meant in a bad spirit, and I only want to draw your attention to some potential blindspots/other considerations. Forgive me if you feel my interpretation of your post was in any way obtuse.


    April 17, 2019 at 1:21 am Reply
    • Nick Williams

      Thanks John, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and it is great to enter into dialogue with you. Having said that, I am going to have to go away and write a more detailed response to the points you are making as they deserve a thorough response. Before I do that though, I could just say a few things to indicate how I feel the ‘negative’ approach in psychology works. Over the last 25 years of seeing clients as a therapist one thing has struck me clearly and it has to do with a type of ‘core orientation’ that we all have. It seems to me (and I can’t give any evidence for this) that we are all orientated in one of two ways.

      The first way, I would say, is when we are ‘orientated towards finding out the truth whatever that truth may be’. We are – in other words – ‘truth lovers’ instead of ‘truth-fearers’. The other approach is where we fundamentally don’t want to encounter the truth and will resist doing so whatever the cost. It is either one way or another (although this can of course change and we’re not ‘locked in’ to our trajectory (taking us either one way or the other) but the key point is that we have no voluntary choice or control over our orientation.

      The second orientation corresponds of course to ‘fleeing’. Speaking from my perspective (of working with people going through psychological difficulties) I would actually say that maybe 50 % of the people I meet are fed up’ of fleeing and are orientated towards the truth. This – I would say – is not true for the general population where most of us are the other way inclined! The reason for this is – I would say – is that over time, after years of struggle – we get sick of trying to force our own agenda and ‘give up’ (in a genuine way, not as a trick) trying to escape whatever it is that we are trying to escape from. This is what lots of people have told me, anyway, so that’s not entirely my own viewpoint.

      From my own experience, from my mid twenties to the age of perhaps 40, I noticed a profound change in myself as a result of going though (and going on from) what our society calls psychosis. I was doing a lot of meditation at the time and one day I noticed this ‘event’ happening in me whereby I ‘assented’ (that’s the only word I can think of) to whatever it was that was happening within me. This assent was totally spontaneous and came as a kind of surprise to me. It was also very sincere and I was struck by the sincerity of this impulse. That degree of sincerity was unknown to me and I didn’t know where is came from. Anyway, at that point I think my own orientation’ switched around’ as a result of all the suffering that I had been through, causing me to head in a different direction in life. Albeit very slowly!

      I’m not saying that anyone should ‘trust’ me because of this but this experience has produced material or insights or whatever one might want to call it that ‘come out of me’ and want to be expressed on paper (or the electronic equivalent!) To the extent that this material might resonate with you then that is a good thing (I think, since I get great help from reading stuff that resonates with my experience) and if it doesn’t then that’s OK too of course since it’s not about me trying to ‘impose’ any ideas on anyone, for fight on their behalf. It’s just what’s true for me (I think, it’s what’s true for me, anyway!)

      Hope as a far as I am concerned is a dirty word since hope is invariably linked with our stubborn and fear-based need to impose our own agenda on what is happening. How can ‘hope’ be separated from our ‘hidden agenda’, anyway? Trust or faith is the underlying process is a different matter entirely however and this is the thing that I would say is takes the place of ‘hope’, Hope comes from fear and letting go comes from courage, I would say! Trust is a tremendously ‘positive’ (using the word carefully here!) thing – far more so than hope. This of course relates to ‘the whole idea of ‘goals’ and ‘advice’ – goals have nothing to do with trusting the underlying process and ‘advice’ is always disastrous (speaking as a therapist). If a therapist gives you advice then beware. Its our mistakes that we learn from, not following good advice….

      April 19, 2019 at 9:24 am Reply
  • Nick Williams

    The overall myth here is described in this article –

    April 19, 2019 at 9:28 am Reply
    • Nick Williams

      I haven’t read much Nietzsche but what I have read I think is very insightful. I agree that it’s all smokescreens! From the perspective of the cosmic drama scenario alluded to above, smokescreens aren’t bad and neither is fleeing. It’s from believing in our smokescreens that we discover how wonderful and liberating it is to not HAVE TO believe in them, and it is through spending all our time fleeing (without admitting to ourselves that we are fleeing) than we learn to appreciate what it feels like not to have to flee! This idea (of how trying to escape from the truth is precisely what brings us back to the truth) is expressed here –

      April 19, 2019 at 9:52 am Reply
      • Nick Williams

        And so with regard to the example you give of the homeless man, it’s not his actual situation that is the smokescreen but his belief in the concreteness of the label, the definition of the state that we all have and which it is possible to be very trapped in. He’s not ‘supposed’ to do anything of course, but there is a tremendous liberation from discover that our description of our situation is not the actual truth of the matter. I will respond more thoroughly to your points later though John, as I have said…

        April 19, 2019 at 9:57 am Reply

Leave a Comment