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This is just something from observation, but i get the impression that there are 3 kinds of people on this site:

  1. Neurotic Daydreamers - these are the dd’ers who are closest to the “maladaptive” definition. They use daydreams to sustain an idealized sense of self that compensates for low self-esteem, essentially “growing on the useless side of life” because these daydreams don’t improve our situation; they unconsciously serve to spare us the pain of real emotion and the possibility of defeat
  2. Managed Daydreamers - these dd’ers are more comfortable with their habit, devoting some time to daydreaming every day or every evening; this helps them to relax and process thoughts and feelings which have been building during the day; while the situations still compensate for something missing in real life (intimacy, excitement, adventure, etc.), they are mostly managed and accepted as part of a life that has more important responsibilities (that is, it’s a silly pastime, but it’s still just a pastime).
  3. Vivid Daydreamers - these dd’ers are practicing something closer to what Carl Jung referred to as “Active Daydreaming” where real feelings and subconscious thoughts are allowed to play in the mind to produce useful scenarios needed to deal with life; also, these people may simply be exercising intense creativity, planning for future events, writing chapters in a novel, etc. This is not really maladaptive, but it can certainly be excessive if no real work is done to make these daydreams a reality…

It’s possible that we engage in these different kinds of dd’s at different times, depending on how active and healthy we are. If we are busy, we don’t dd as much. Or if we are more or less happy with our situation, we also won’t dd. But, if life throws us a lemon, we may revert back to our old habit of daydreaming to avoid processing the uncomfortable emotions of life. It’s much easier to imagine ourselves powerful and successful than it is to try it and potentially fail. That is, our sense of superiority in some area of life would be threatened if we actually test ourselves in life. That’s scary, and it’s a big reason for why neurotic daydreamers do this (myself included).

I suppose there’s potentially Group #4, where people who have experienced something traumatic can escape that trauma in fantasy, or at least learn to cope with it there. But i think it’s more of a temporary thing, because people will eventually move on and get stronger (hopefully!). So they don’t get stuck in it. Otherwise they may become neurotic like dd’ers in Group #1.

That’s my impression. I hope I don’t offend, but i just keep reading the same stories in the discussions, and so i thought i’d post.

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Comment by Eretaia on March 31, 2017 at 1:24am

You mean I'm exaggerating because I call MD dissociative? When I say 'dissociation', I refer to emotional dissociation when one is emotionally cut off from certain feelings - not normal dissociation which one experiences while reading or driving and not pathological dissociation one experiences when one has dissociative identity disorder. To me, it seems rather obvious that there is an emotional dissociation going on in MD, otherwise why do certain feelings pivotal to one's well-being emerge in maladaptive daydreams when one is all alone in his head but they collapse when exposed to real social context? If you feel like a superman in your daydreams but have self-esteem issues in real life, then you are cut off.

Just to make a clarification about 'passive imagination' and 'active imagination':  they are terms that describe how imagination works and don't necessarily have anything to do with daydreaming and fantasizing as mental states. They refer merely to the workings of imagination itself and whether this imagination manifests through painting, dancing, lying in bed and fantasizing or dreaming is another discussion altogether. If in Jungian terms, one's psyche is made of shadow -> Self <- ego, passive imagination is something that works to satisfy ego whereas active works to achieve the Self (union of ego and shadow). It's like the mental Western yoga, lol.

Comment by darmody on March 30, 2017 at 3:01pm

@Eretaia-

I think you exaggerate the passive and automatic nature of the sort of daydreaming done by maladaptive daydreamers. I can't say for sure, because I don't know if I am a maladaptive daydreamer. But from the descriptions I've read on this site I think my daydreams are similar enough to those who're sure enough they have the disorder. 

Mine are definitely dissociative, in that I am detached from my immediate surroundings as I experience them. Of course, dissociation is a broad term, and you may be using it in a more technical sense. Far as I know, anything that takes you out of the hear and now mentally is dissociative (unless it deprives you of the ability to discern fantasy from reality, in which case it's a form of psychosis), including garden-variety daydreaming.

I often describe it as watching a movie play out before me in my head, but that's not entirely accurate. Whereas I have no control over the movies I see, I definitely can exert control over my daydreams. There's nothing like equal weight between the active and passive parts; I definitely receive my daydreams passively more than I'm an active participant. But on the other hand, they're also not like my dream-dreams, where it's pretty much all passive. (If I ever dream lucidly, it's in a very weak and scattershot form). 

Comment by Eretaia on March 29, 2017 at 1:42pm

I always write down what I think is important and try to analyze them because experience so far taught me there are no coincidences here. Some of my fantasies were a part of me I knew I couldn't give up. They felt too dear, too important to be just a stubborn defense mechanism or an ego booster. So, the only way for me to acknowledge them as something really real to me, the only way to overcome them without giving a part of myself up was to learn from them and make the feelings they evoke mine. I never approached the content of my dreams literally, as objects that were to be attained or situations that would have to happen, but always emotionally. Daydreams are feelings metamorphosed and turned stories and people, not stories and people themselves. (I wrote about this in detail here). If you can learn from them, if you can take these feelings back into the self (instead of having them separated from you and projected onto daydreams), then you've acknowledged them as real. The moment they are integrated in the self, daydreams just disappear. Or rather, they become a part of you and you are never hungry again to search for the self outside yourself - i.e. in projections and daydreams.

If you want to discuss your own daydreams, feel free to send me a message. :) I'm never really confident with the advice I can give because interpreting mental stuff is such a tricky thing because it's so personal. Even when underlying concepts are universal and collective, their manifestations can be intensely personal. If you have something you think it's worth discussing, bring it on. :)


Comment by MatthewR on March 29, 2017 at 12:41am

Eretaia, you're right about MD and dissociation. I never thought of it as a conflict of integration, but that’s exactly what it is. MD is the opposite of active imagination. I just never thought about it like that. 

And about Jung. I know he once typed himself, that he thought he was introverted, and that his dominant function was thinking. But given what we know about him today, i think it’s obvious that he was an INFJ, so his intuition was insanely strong as you say. He was adept at picking up patterns and symbols, and then decoding them. He wrote extensively about his own dreams, and I think yours run in a similar vein. Your dream is an example of someone who is using their dominant function of introverted intuition (Ni) to understand themselves on a deeper level. No doubt your Ni populates your dreams with archetypal imagery. It's your default way of perceiving, which i would imagine makes it difficult to be understood sometimes. You’re searching for abstract connections, and most people are not very comfortable doing that, let alone grasping how ‘this’ equals ‘that’ on a metaphorical level. But that’s what Ni does, it synthesizes opposites and derives an image with symbolic value.

I’m wondering if you keep dream journals and use this material constructively in your life. Do you interpret your dreams and can you assist others in doing so? Because I’m really intrigued by your last revelation, that a third figure was needed to satisfy the two conflicting forces of dreaming and reality. It reminds me of a very old dream i had whose meaning continues to elude me. Certainly you’ve given me a lot more to think about. It’s a solution i hadn’t considered. Thank you!

Comment by Eretaia on March 28, 2017 at 9:44am

I'm glad you mentioned this. I always wanted to discuss active imagination with a fellow daydreamer but bringing up Jungian psychology always runs a risk of being misunderstood. Or called crazy. :p 

Passive imagination can also emerge spontaneously. The key difference between active and passive imagination is that in active imagination, conscious and unconscious mind work together, without ultimately excluding and threatening one another whereas in passive imagination, they are conflicted, just like they are conflicted in MD. In order to trigger MD, you need to escape from your own ego and negate yourself, pretending you are someone else so that repressed attributes can come to the surface. To a maladaptive daydreamer, integration of his own fantasies into his ego may seem outright impossible and one almost always appears to negate the other. There's a war between the ego and the fantasy and it's MDer himself who keeps widening this rift. Active imagination would be a dialogue between the two, where you could actively interpret the content of your fantasies and continually try to make them flow into the ego. Alchemy itself was a form of active imagination where, just like you mentioned yourself, transmuting lead into gold was merely a fantasy describing the process of turning unconscious into conscious, shadow into ego, both eventually meeting in the Self. There is a constant drive to integrate, rather than dissociate. MD is all about dissociating. It's an automatic process where you don't participate and instead just go with the flow imposed by your shadow impulses.

I don't think it's impossible to turn your MD into active imagination but you'd need to be really, really honest with yourself and discard everything narcissistic from those fantasies, letting them become clear mirrors of your unconscious as it really is, without self-idealizing and pain suppressing tendencies.  

Jung didn't need drugs, he was naturally gifted. :p You're just born that way, with insanely strong intuition. I don't remember where I read it but conjuring up active imagination for him involved getting locked up in his room and performing certain 'rituals' to get in the mood, and one source even mentioned pacing in circles. But frankly speaking, if you ask me, you just can do it or you can't. It's just like MD. You can do it or you can't. Active imagination can manifest in many ways: painting, dancing or even listening to music. It does have characteristics of a flow state, where concept spontaneously emerge as you said, but the main trait is that the dreamer himself is positively participating. 


Have I ever experienced something like this? Yes, since the very beginning. Most of my fantasies were chock-full of archetypes. I feel insane just by writing this but my strongest and obsessive fantasies were manifestations of my desire to overcome depression and later daydreaming. Everything that happened in those fantasies was my own psyche fixing itself through interactions of these characters. Whenever I genuinely wanted to overcome depression, the figures from my daydreams would become cues on how to do that and I would work through my issues through them, with them. These fantasies were completely different from those normal MD daydreams; there was no idealized self, no trying to self-medicate in a superficial way, and it was more like a story writing itself, like a dream but much more reasonable. I couldn't decide when I'd daydream about it - it just happened when I was in the zone. 

To give you an example, my last fantasy revolved around a freaking love story between two opposing characters but there wasn't anything romantic or sexual in it. It was just my mind trying to put two characters together, period. Cheesy, yes. Did I have intimacy issues to be dreaming of a romance? No. Was it because I was lonely? No. Was it because I wanted romance? No. In fact, there wasn't anything romantic about this particular story. It was strange, because why would I be dreaming of romance if I had no desire for romance myself? Then I started to analyze these characters and realized that one of them was a manifestation of reality and the other was a manifestation of the dreamworld and they were both mirrors of my own inner split. And all my attempts to have them together was nothing but an attempt to reconcile this split. But I couldn't finish the story. They could never get together, they were both perpetually negating each other's existence. When I started trying to crack the riddle, a third character appears and she becomes an apprentice of both. She learns from one and then learns from the other, she takes from one and then takes from the other, and through this, they finally meet through her. When I realized what this daydream meant, all my cravings disappeared. It's when I felt for the first time that fantasy and reality where reconcilable only when there's a solid self to stand in between - which was the third character - that act as a bridge in which the two can touch. This fantasy basically ended my MD. This all happened before I knew a thing about Jung's work. When I found his works, I was mind blown

Comment by MatthewR on March 28, 2017 at 12:04am

@Eretaia - Have you ever experienced something like that? I've had daydreams that seemed symbolic. Assuming i'm not directing them, then images have emerged spontaneously, like I Ching imagery. I thought that's what active imagination was, something that was allowed to happen spontaneously to produce a scenario with subconscious ideas. You start pulling up weird characters and situations that don't mean anything straightaway but which you have to decode. I know Jung was terrified of whatever he was doing, that he thought he would go schizophrenic if he wasn't careful. He wrote the contents of these  dreams down in the Red Book and then wrote extensive commentaries on them. If i remember, Jung encountered someone named Philemon in his dreams, who helped guide him--with Philemon's help he met other archetypes, which apparently informed the bulk of his theories about personality and the unconscious. Jung also said he discovered god-images, which he equated with the secret work in alchemy (the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, which was really a metaphor for the Self). The stuff he wrote down in the Red Book is pretty trippy, i admit. I read it some years ago out of curiosity, but to this day I still don't know what Jung did to conjure his active daydreams. I have no idea what methods he used. I've read a few sources on the internet, but they give vague answers, and usually with the pretext of selling a book. So i don't know. It's all very interesting stuff. Maybe he was on LSD or something?     

Comment by Eretaia on March 27, 2017 at 12:15pm

I totally see where you're coming from but I'd be very careful to associate Jung's active imagination with daydreaming. Jung's active imagination is far from cases we commonly see here, even those that are least maladaptive. It's a form of mental imagery, much closer to your craziest, trippiest dream than to an egocentric daydream. It's ruled by the unconscious, you can't bend it to your own will to dodge your insecurities and it requires a an active participation from the subject that is assimilating unconscious material and integrating it into the ego, which in turn causes said fantasy to dissolve. It's an incredibly self-therapeutic technique but equally dangerous and painful that takes a strong ego to handle or even evoke, otherwise ego fragments. Passive imagination, on the other side, is much closer to what we call MD, as both are marked by a dissociated relationship between conscious and unconscious. Active imagination in contrast would serve to close that gap between the two and help you use y0ur inner dream figures to direct you in doing so. Pretty trippy.

Do I think active imagination can be accessed via MD? Yes. Is it rare? Hell yes.

Comment by MatthewR on March 26, 2017 at 12:57am

@OhMyMagenta - I didn't know about the term "neurotic" being used like that. I've only seen it referenced as a general term for behaviors that interfere with life. For instance, a person suddenly develops back pain before having to search for work. Despite nothing being physically wrong with them, the pain persists until they stop looking for a job. The idea is that the back pain is unconsciously controlled by the person and occurs only to safeguard the person's excuse from working. Whenever the person is again called to task, the pain returns, making progress in one's life impossible.

I don't know how old the term "neurotic" is. I know "schizophrenia" meant something different in the past. If the word was abused, maybe that's why it fell out of favor? The condition of being "neurotic" I thought was related to the fear of being found deficient, worthless, or incapable. So, as compensation, a person acts superior, like they are entitled to special treatment. Sometimes they strive to be perfect, or sometimes they feel they have special powers or abilities that nobody else has. I used to feel that way about MDD, but now i think i was just being neurotic--for me, it was just an excuse to avoid life and not be held accountable like everyone else.

Daydreaming itself isn't neurotic, but it can become that way if it's used like that person's back pain. Instead of cooperating with others, accepting our place as being no better than anyone else, we use dd'ing to imagine having it all, being perfect, being awesome, and being so superior to others. We would rather maintain the illusion of our specialness than surrender to the cruelty of a world that doesn't give us all we want. In reality, the world isn't really cruel. It's just indifferent.

But that's what i understand about "neurosis." I guess most people associate it with being hysterical or something, which is really unfair. Then i can see how some people would use the term negatively. Take care, Magenta!         

Comment by OhMyMagenta on March 25, 2017 at 9:22pm
In reading this post, I'm thinking it's going to be difficult to neatly place a person in one of these three types. Diagnoses, like human beings, can be fluid and change in intensity/frequency/duration when a life stressor occurs. We may vacillate in intensity when triggered, but can go back to baseline once the stressor is resolved. Something to also consider is how much is the day dreaming negatively impacting the individuals daily functioning. Have they withdrawn socially, favoring the company of the characters in their daydreams over real people? Are they passing on going out with friends in favor of staying in to daydream? Are they late to work because they don't want to stop daydreaming or were they up all night daydreaming & got no sleep? So many factors play a role here.

Please don't take this as a slight; it's not my intention, but you may want to reconsider using the word 'Neurotic'. The term fell out of favor in the psychiatric/medical community many years ago and has negative connotation for woman.
Comment by MatthewR on March 25, 2017 at 2:09pm

@Source - Yah, it's hard to pigeonhole something like this into neat categories. It could be that people operate one way for a certain amount of time and then switch to "normal" for a while. Maybe we operate with combinations of "normal" and "maladaptive" habits. Most of us can get through life being mature in some areas and immature in others.  Also, how can we even say what's "normal" and what's "maladaptive"? Maybe it just depends on how we feel about it versus what other people think about it? But yeah, a spectrum seems more like it. Take care, Source.  

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