Daydreaming to escape the discomfort of unmet needs

Although I currently classify myself as an immersive daydreamer, because I have reasonable control over my daydreaming and I’m using it as a force for good in my life, there have been times when my daydreaming has got out of control and become more maladaptive than immersive. If you’re constantly at the maladaptive end of the daydreaming scale, then you may well have some unresolved issues from your past that can only be resolved through therapy. But if you transition between immersive and maladaptive according to what is going on for you in real life, it may be that your daydreaming is giving you something that you don’t get anywhere else. The following are some of the things that drive me to daydream more. I’m listing them here in case you can relate to them, but I’m sure other daydreamers will have very different lists.

A need for connection

I think everyone craves connection, and for the most part we find it with family and friends. Looking back over my life, I’ve realised that I’ve never had a particularly wide social circle, I’ve never had as many close friends as I would have liked, and for large parts of my life I haven’t really had anyone that I could share my deepest thoughts with. So I’ve turned to my imaginary friends to find the sense of connection that I haven’t been able to find in real life.

A need for mental stimulation

I hate being bored. More specifically, my mind hates having nothing to do. And the reality is that there are many things in everyday life that are boring – housework, cooking, shopping. My daydream life is, put simply, more exciting than the real one.

A need for respect and recognition

It’s important to me to be the best at what I do and for other people to acknowledge that. But in real life, my job is reasonably autonomous, most of my colleagues don’t understand what I do, and my responsibilities as a wife and mother are the same as those of women across the world. I don’t stand out. I’m a decent enough person, and I matter to the people closest to me, but I’m nothing special in the grand scheme of things. But in my daydream life, it’s different. There, I’m the one who averts a crisis or turns around a desperate situation; I’m the one who can fix problems that no-one else can solve, and I love that.

A need for novelty

In real life, especially during lockdown, all my days are pretty much the same. I work. I look after my children. I do housework. I go out for a walk. That kind of monotonous order and predictability might suit some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I thrive on the excitement of waking up and not knowing what the day is going to bring. I constantly want to learn new things, meet new people and have new experiences. In fact, I want to do more than any one person could reasonably fit into one lifetime. So having instant access to all of those infinite possibilities in my head is compelling, to put it mildly.

A need to be me

All my life, people have made assumptions about me and about the kind of person that I am, and I’ve tried to live up (or down) to those expectations in order not to disappoint anyone. I’ve tried so hard to be what other people want me to be that I’ve risked losing sight of who I want to be. But in my daydreams, I don’t have to please anyone. I have complete freedom to be my true authentic self.

Whether or not any of the things I’ve listed above drive you deeper into your daydreams, I’m sure you can recognise the need for connection, stimulation, respect, novelty and authenticity. All of these are things that we need to a greater or lesser degree, and I’m not unusual or broken for wanting these things. Blaming the daydreaming and trying to cut back on it was never going to work, because the daydreaming was never the problem. Daydreaming was the way I instinctively dealt with the problem of something fundamental being missing from my life. Learning to reflect on what is most important to me, what I need to function and feel fulfilled in the real world, has helped me change my daydreaming from an unhealthy coping mechanism into a tool that unlocks my full potential.

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