Maladaptive daydreamers tend to blame their daydreaming for a lot of things. We tell ourselves we can’t achieve our career goals because we’ve wasted so much time daydreaming. We tell ourselves we can’t have a fulfilling romantic relationship because our daydreaming has left us with unrealistic expectations. We tell ourselves that we’re bad or weird because we prefer our paracosms to real life. And the common theme here is that we think we had a choice. We think we could have just not daydreamed and everything would have been OK. But that idea is responsible for most of our suffering; because the truth is, we never had a choice. No-one chooses to struggle with mental ill health. No-one chooses to fall into addictive behaviours. If you’re struggling with maladaptive daydreaming disorder, the first thing you need to understand is this – it is NOT your fault.
It’s not your fault you’re a daydreamer
You didn’t choose to be able to make up stories in your head. That ability to imagine something so vividly that it almost feels real, that ability to want something so badly that you can’t help but mentally create it, that’s just the way your brain’s wired. It’s not due to anything you did or didn’t do. It doesn’t say anything about the rest of who you are. It’s not inherently good or bad, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Daydreaming is simply the way you think. Don’t waste time wishing your brain was wired differently.
It’s not your fault your daydreaming became maladaptive
Something happened in your life that was more than you could cope with at the time. It probably happened a long time ago. You may not even remember it. And maybe if it happened again now, you’d have the resources and maturity to cope with it. But back then you didn’t. And that wasn’t your fault.
And it also wasn’t your fault that your brain tried to protect you. Your brain wouldn’t allow you to feel emotions that would have overwhelmed you, emotions that would have been dangerous for you to feel. So your brain gave you somewhere else to go. Somewhere where that overwhelming thing never happened. Somewhere where nothing bad ever happened. Somewhere where you could control the outcome. Because that was what you needed at the time. That wasn’t your fault. That was your brain doing what it needed to do to protect you.
It’s not your fault you can’t tell anyone
Most people have never heard of maladaptive daydreaming, or immersive daydreaming. Most people don’t have imaginary worlds competing for their attention 24/7. Even most doctors and therapists don’t fully understand what it’s like to be a daydreamer. How could they? We live in a world where most people still confuse daydreaming with mind-wandering, and where a lot of the things you’ll find on the internet about maladaptive daydreaming are just plain wrong. It’s not your fault that other people don’t understand. You can’t single-handedly educate the whole world.
And that means it’s not your fault that you want to keep your daydreaming a secret. Why would you want to open up about something so deeply personal when people are going to judge, misunderstand or trivialise your struggles? Why would you want to risk that kind of rejection? You wouldn’t. No-one would. Being afraid of rejection doesn’t make you weak or defective, it makes you human. It’s something we all feel. It’s not your fault.
So, if none of this is your fault, can you do anything about it?
Yes! Just because your maladaptive daydreaming isn’t your fault, doesn’t mean you can’t take responsibility for it. Is it fair that you have to take responsibility for fixing a problem you weren’t responsible for creating? Maybe not. But it is empowering. Why? Because it puts you back in control.
When you accept that your maladaptive daydreaming is not your fault, you can let go of the idea that having maladaptive daydreaming disorder somehow makes you a bad person. You can let go of the idea that you should be able to just stop. You can let go of the shame. When you accept that being a daydreamer is just one of the many things that makes you who you are, you can stop seeing your daydreaming as good or bad, and instead see it as a tool that you can use in whatever way you want. And when you accept that you can take responsibility for how you use your daydreaming, you suddenly have choices. You can choose to keep running away to a world that can never be real, or you can choose to take the parts of that world that really mean something to you and figure out how to get that same sense of meaning and purpose in real life. Because once you drop the idea that being a daydreamer means you’re not worthy of real-life happiness, you’ll be amazed at what’s possible.