Your day starts with a mild stir. A stir nowhere else but in your mind. As you go about your daily chores, you feel like your mind is only partially involved. A simultaneous series of thoughts are on too. Your imagination is rolling and how! You imagine yourself giving a stage performance, that boy you like finally making conversation with you, you topping in class or bagging that coveted project….. you are daydreaming. Why are we discussing this? Isn’t daydreaming one pleasant escapade that is safe? Oh yes, it is! However, there are some of us who daydream excessively, so much so that our schedules are delayed or disrupted or our head begins to feel heavy. We probably end up underachieving or simply being dissatisfied with this almost compulsive tendency…yet, it has its own rewards. Let’s understand this better.
WHY DO WE DAYDREAM?
1. It Serves A Compensatory Function
A simple, almost intuitive explanation of daydreaming is this. Irrespective of how well we are doing in life, we all have a few goals that evade us. We are unable to achieve them either because we do not have the necessary skills/resources/ social sanction to do so. However, these goals remain attractive because they have the potential to fulfill some psychological need in us, be it fame, approval, love or aggression. This makes these goals close to our hearts. The word goal here refers to “anything that we like and want”. There is a good chance that these goals are not ones that we practically wish to achieve. For example, providing sound psychological services is a practical goal in my life right now. However, a childhood fantasy of wanting to act in the movies may not be so. I may have eventually dismissed it as mere fascination. The latter is one I am more likely to daydream about. Moreover, the daydream may not be directly manifest as me acting in the movies. It may even be as subtle as me looking as good as they do in the movies or being loved as much as a movie star is.
Daydreams help us ‘compensate’. They help us make up for that fantasy/goal we have not accomplished. “If I can’t achieve it at least I can compensate by thinking about it” is what our mind appears to be telling itself when we daydream. The imagined glory that accompanies daydreams serves as a reward to our minds, furthering the tendency.
2. Low Self Esteem
Underlying excessive daydreaming is low self esteem. There is a saying in psychology, ‘what is latent is most potent.’ Unfulfilled goals or fantasies even if banished from the conscious mind, continue to play upon our sub-conscious minds. They serve as a constant reminder that we have ‘failed’ to achieve them, that we need to do more and that we are not good enough. This message puts our minds in a state of imbalance or ‘hunger’. There is ‘hunger’ to attain or fulfill those fantasies. There is hunger to attain higher self esteem. This then raises the chances that we daydream, in an indirect effort to satiate our minds.
What are the EFFECTS OF EXCESSIVE DAYDREAMING ?
Excessive daydreaming eventually takes more than it gives. It upsets routines, leads to mental unrest and fatigue. It impairs functioning in the practical world, which then leads to additional anxiety and stress and further lowers self esteem.
WHAT THEN IS THE WAY OUT?
1. Be Aware
Daydreaming has its own knack of gently swaying our minds before we realize. The beginnings of daydreaming often occur slowly and seem pleasant, upon which we let it continue. Be aware of this cycle. Sense daydreaming actively when it begins, be aware that you are daydreaming.
2. Be Mindful
Mindfulness essentially means being in the ‘here and now’. So in a way, it is the opposite of daydreaming. Once you are aware that you are daydreaming, gently shift focus to the here and now or to whatever is around you. Feel the ground below your feet, feel your back against the chair, observe passersby instead of looking blankly outside the window. Focus on whatever sounds you hear around you, be mindful. Practice meditation regularly. This will help immensely.
3. Stop Dreaming, Start Doing
Most daydreaming occurs because we aren’t doing enough to achieve our ‘dream’. I didn’t act in the movies alright but I surely can at social functions! I am probably not the best looking person on earth but I can surely do enough to look as good as I can! Bring your talents to the fore. Leverage on your strengths. They taught us that each one of us is unique…and we sure are. Recognize this and tap the potential that undeniably lies within you as it does within each of us.
Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-Present)