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I often catch myself going down the rabbit hole, skimming one Wikipedia article... then suddenly it's two hours later and I have ten tabs open about a crazy assortment of subjects.

The Free Dictionary provides the following definition but doesn't offer its antonym.

go down the rabbit hole
To enter into a situation or begin a process or journey that is particularly strange, problematic, difficult, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or unfolds. (An allusion to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)

Question: What's the opposite of that?

Staying focused, keeping on track, skimming, just addressing the obvious?

Thanks!

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  • 7
    Like staying on target?
    – Davo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:23
  • 3
    If you refer to avoiding the two-hour detour, then your options of "staying focused" and "keeping on track" are good. If you mean realizing you're on a detour and ending it, perhaps "coming up for air" or "getting back on track".
    – Hellion
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:47
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    Keeping you nose to the grindstone.
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:24
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    "Stoically", "soldiered on", "no nonsense", "proceeded directly", or "kept my head down" might also be idiomatic expressions to describe ignoring distractions. "negotiated a minefield" may be more a fun way to describe using wikiepidia (or SE) to learn something useful without reading 10 not really useful pages.
    – user219159
    Aug 18, 2017 at 18:14
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    "Avoiding [or escaping] the hall of mirrors," maybe?
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 18, 2017 at 19:44

4 Answers 4

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I know this is a bit odd.

I would suggest the phrase:

Taking the blue pill

It's a reference to the Matrix. Red pill refers to the cold hard truth. In the case of the Matrix, it meant that they lived in a simulation. It is one tough pill to swallow.

The blue pill, on the other hand, is the easy truth everyone wants to believe. An example would be the belief that we all have a soulmate and we are destined to meet them.

Or:

claw your way out of [insert whatever you want here]

Or:

Coming back to reality

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  • I can’t remember what the blue pill was in The Matrix. Can you edit your answer to explain please (edit your answer). Sounds as if might be on target — shades of “Drink Me”.
    – David
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:00
  • I edited my answer.
    – user352103
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:03
  • I just watched that scene from shades of grey on youtube. I don't think that has anything to do with it. But, perhaps it does. I am not sure. It could be like an easter egg or some type of artsy metaphorical thing as to signify something.
    – user352103
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:06
  • Good. Better than any of my suggestions. I’d scrub the others — they dilute it. Less is more.
    – David
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:11
  • Haha Thanks!!!!! Keep them all. Sometimes, less is just less :)
    – user352103
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:16
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Hit the bullseye

to achieve the best result possible

(link to one of many sites explaining this)

First, there is an implied goal lost when you fall down that rabbit hole, because you can't go off track without being on a track to somewhere in the first place.

I'm not comfortable with stay on target as an answer, because you can always lose focus and fall down a rabbit-hole anytime. Being down a rabbit-hole suggests the situation is irretrievably lost. After all, Alice only got out of her predicament by waking up.

So, the opposite of that would need to imply completing your task in the best possible way.

A slightly less intense version of this would be get it done, or as Larry the Cable Guy would be apt to say, "Get 'er dun!"

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  • (P.S. I hope you think I've done this, and not the other.)
    – Spencer
    Aug 19, 2017 at 15:40
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I have had difficulty in finding reputable sources for some of the specific expressions I list below, partly because of their appropriation into songs that are apparently popular with some users of the Internet. Suggestion are therefore welcome.

If one considers the ‘opposite’ as meaning resisting the temptation to go down the ‘rabbit hole’, then:

Stepping back from the abyss

or

Not harkening to the siren song

might approximate, although what one is resisting has darker connotations than complexity and difficulty.

If one views the ‘opposite’ as emerging from a ‘rabbit hole’, then the phrases that occur include:

Coming out at the other side

or

Emerging into the daylight

and, of course:

Waking from the nightmare

After all, it was just a dream.

More mundane, although perhaps none the worse for that, would be

Back to the old routine

Less neutral is:

Making it through the night

Those of a literary inclination may find:

Being “Recalled to life” (Dickens, Tale of Two Cities)

appealing; but it has perhaps too much moral baggage.

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Generally speaking, I think that Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole is Carroll’s creative retelling of the “fall of man” but, as with many things Carrollian, it is in reverse. Alice does not “fall” away from the Garden of Eden but towards it. Once in Wonderland, Alice must learn to ingest something to be able to enter the Garden, just a Adam and Eve did to exit it. In this case it is the different “sides” of the “mind-expanding” psychedelic mushroom. There are some medieval English traditions that replace the Edenic apple tree with a large mushroom (see Eadwine Psalter). Given this context, going down the rabbit hole seems to stand (as mentioned in a post above) for a person unwittingly entering into a Chaotic situation that s/he must learn to Order through the proper absorption of knowledge and the mastering of the self (somewhat a la Jordan Peterson). So, in Carrollian terms, the opposite of “falling down the rabbit hole” seems to be “learning through the eating of the mushroom.”

In our modern setting, inspired by The Matrix, the opposite of “falling down the rabbit hole” would have to be “ingesting of the red pill,” because it is through this that Neo (the “New Man” or Christ) begins to understand (and master) the true nature of the world he inhabits.

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