You were born a daydreamer. It’s the way your mind works, and that ability you have to create a parallel universe filled with interesting people and experiences is something you will never lose. But if you’re a maladaptive daydreamer, you’re probably very aware of the negative effects that daydreaming can have on your life, and you’re probably looking for ways to get it under control. Even if you’re an immersive daydreamer, it’s possible that your daydreaming is holding you back from reaching your full potential in real life.
Some of the negative effects of daydreaming are:
- Spending so much time daydreaming that you don’t get other, more important, things done.
- Not working to solve your problems, because it’s easy to run away to your parallel universe.
- Not pursuing your goals in real-life, because you can achieve them instantly in your head
- Not developing inter-personal skills or learning how to resolve conflict, because your characters always act and feel exactly the way you want them to.
- Having unrealistic expectations of other people because the character you based on them behaves in a particular way.
- Not feeling motivated in real-life because there is always somewhere more interesting to be.
If any of those points resonate with you, and you’d like to be more successful in real-life, you’re going to have to take responsibility for your daydreaming and the effect it has on your life. Your thoughts exist in your head alone, and no-one else can control them or even understand the effect they have on you. No-one else is going to do this for you. It’s up to you to decide how best to integrate your daydreaming into the rest of your life. That might mean daydreaming less, or it might mean setting aside time for daydreaming, or it could be more about the content of your daydreams and how you can use them to accelerate your real-life success.
That doesn’t mean you have to do the whole thing alone. If you are struggling with Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder, you might need to seek out a counsellor or therapist to help you get control over it. But the decision to seek help still has to come from you – and you’re not handing over responsibility. A therapist will walk beside you on your journey and use their skills and expertise to guide you in the right direction, but they won’t heal you. You will heal yourself with their support. It’s the same if you’re an immersive daydreamer – you might seek out a friend, mentor or coach to support you as you take control of your life, but the responsibility and decisions will still be yours.
So, where do you start? A good place to begin is to look at what you can control.
If you started daydreaming years ago and it has become a habit
Take a long hard look at what you get out of continuing to daydream – what benefits does it give you, and how does it hinder you? On balance, is it a good thing? If not, how could you tip the balance so that it is? What things would you do if you didn’t spend so much time daydreaming? How can you make those things into habits? What would you like to achieve? How can your daydreaming help you to do that? What triggers you to start daydreaming? How could you reduce your expose to those triggers?
If you’re daydreaming to escape from something that’s currently going on (or not going on) in your life
Ask yourself whether your daydreaming is the problem, or whether your daydreaming is the way you’re dealing with the problem. Is there another way you could address the problem? What actions can you take to improve your life so you have less need to escape? What would you advise a normative daydreamer to do in your situation? What would your alter ego tell you to do if they could step out of your daydream and see the difficulties you face in the real world?
If real-life is boring, and the only excitement you feel is in your daydreams
Spend some time reflecting on what you would realistically like your real-life to be. Talk it through with a character or a real-life friend if that helps. What do you want to be doing a year from now? What job would you like to have? Where would you like to live? Who would you like to be spending time with? What hobbies would you like to be pursuing? Where would you want to go on holiday? Then think what you could do that would take you at least a few steps closer to some of those things. Just because you can have them in your head, doesn’t mean they are out of reach or not worth working towards in real life.
Hopefully the questions above will have given you some ideas about ways in which you can take control over your daydreaming and make it a force for good in your life, rather than something you struggle with. As with every other aspect of who you are, your daydreaming can be a blessing or a curse – and the person who gets to decide which it is, is you.