I'm almost sure I ran across something very interesting:


The case of Florence Nightingale, the most famous English nurse. I was reading her biography and noticed numerous mentions of severe daydreaming which interfered with her life, and from descriptions provided, it appears to be a typical MD. The paragraphs below are extracted from works by various authors which focus on biography of Nightingale and are quite self-explanatory. An important thing to add is that she also suffered from low self-esteem and bouts of depression.

  • "Nightingale spent most of her youth dreaming up imaginary scenarios under which she could achieve her goal. Her private writings indicate that daydreaming occupied so much of her time that she fought against it as a dreadful affliction. In these reveries she escaped from the stifling trivialities of the drawing-room to perform heroic humanitarian feats in hospital under gaze of a beloved leader. The daydreaming was her secret and loathsome vice, and she carefully noted her success or failure in trying to suppress it. It is likely that the affliction was common throughout Victorian England."

  • "The young Florence felt herself alone, an outsider despite her ever-present extended family. She recorded in private notes that before the age of six she was aware that she did not fit; she was afraid that others would notice her difference, and so avoided people as much turned to daydreams in which she cast herself as a heroine. As she grew to adulthood Nightingale developed a sense of extreme shame over these episodes and, by 1849, had determined to "crucify" her sin by devoting the 7th of each month to self-examination. Her notes show evidence that she continued to be concerned about this tendency, and to feel a certain sense of guilt for her pride."


  • "No one realized the turmoil she suffered inside, as she struggled to come to grip with herself. She still didn’t know what her call was in life and was plagued with a severe case of daydreaming. It would later become so bad that she’d drift in and out of reality, loosing track of time as she set up stories in her mind in which she was the heroine."


  • "Of the specific forms her daydreams assumed, she was silent, but she indicated clearly that they were dreams of heroic action. She also recorded how she fell into "trance-like" states as an escape from the boredom and tedium of social life - at dinner parties, for example. "Why, Oh my God cannot I be satisfied with the life that satisfies so many people?" she wrote."


  • "Nightingale also had to confront her "demons," that is, those personal characteristics she felt would not be consistent with a spiritually oriented life, such as her excessive daydreaming and her desire for power and recognition. Nightingale's internal struggles are poignantly recorded in personal notes and also in a diary she kept during a trip to Egypt in 1849 (Calabria, 1997). In the diary she expressed her profound feelings of guilt for creating disharmony in her family, that is, for not being contented with a life of wealth and privilege. She wrestled with a tendency for what she called "dreaming," or leaving the immediacy of the moment in trance-like fantasies. Her habit of "dreaming" was most probably a reaction to her family's social routine, from which she longed to escape. Acknowledging her desire for personal power and recognition, Nightingale remembered the words of the Madre Santa Columba, whom she met at the Trinita in Rome: "My Madre said to me Can you hesitate between the God of the whole earth and your little reputation?" (Calabria, 1997, p. 46)."




  • In England Nightingale was becoming popular. A fund had been set up for her to use to educate nurses later on and Queen Victoria had given her a brooch. All of this attention went practically unheeded by Nightingale, who despised fame. Her character had undergone a tremendous transformation from the girl who had imagined herself a heroine. Incidentally, she was cured of her ‘dreaming’.


  • "In the daydreams she projected her ideal of an heroic life of action; once she found her work in the world, all mention of the daydreams vanishes from her private papers."


  • "Like Theresa, Florence desired a 'life beyond self: she too sought 'some illimitable satisfaction' which might justify her efforts and make it worth subordinating her personal wishes to it. And yet unlike Theresa, Florence overcame this impulse. At a certain point she stopped wishing for what life couldn't deliver, appealed to the world as she found it, and demanded satisfaction from it. This transformation was however gradual. The first thing to go was Florence's tendency to daydream: and what better way to rid herself of it than to write a novel in which the heroine dies from too much daydreaming? A heroine who, moved by her own furies, condemns both herself and the world. With her love of Greek literature, Florence knew that Cassandra had to die denouncing an indifferent world. One innovation was to get Cassandra's brother to tell Cassandra's story, recalling their final conversations after her death."







So, what do you guys think?

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I find this interesting too. I found a book written by Florence Nightingale in which she talks about daydreaming being 'dangerous' for her and trying to overcome daydreaming with prayer. Thanks for sharing this.

are they saying becoming famous cured her?

John: Yes, there are also certain segments of her diary where she actually talks about daydreaming.

greyartist: No. I'm still researching and having hard time finding key information, so I can only speculate, but if I had to guess, it was her introspection and engagement in nursing that eventually set her free. The most important step in her life was when she began to rebel, first through her literary works and then through her actions. Please check the first file in the attachment, it explains certain things.

Guys, I'd like your opinion about this one:

When Nightingale speaks of young girls never committing a false step, she means they have been forced to give up any form of self-expression.  They are doing everything that is proper, but because they are not free, their thoughts which are still free, are improper.  She is speaking of daydreams, which she says the mothers (who have indulged in them in their own youths) have now forgotten.  In trying to obey the laws of God which warn against “vain imaginations” (1499) (Romans 1.21), Nightingale says that women fast mentally, but because it is not natural to be idle, bored and unfulfilled, success is impossible.  Only by having fulfilled lives can the problem be remedied.

"… in order to escape the worst torture of wandering “vain imaginations.”  But the laws of God for moral well-being are not thus to be obeyed.  We fast mentally, scourge ourselves morally, use the intellectual hairshirt, in order to subdue that perpetual day-dreaming, which is so dangerous! … Never, with the slightest success.  By mortifying vanity we do ourselves no good.  It is the want of interest in our life which produces it; by filling up that want of interest in our life we can alone remedy it. (1499)"

In these paragraphs, she's obviously generalizing and referring to every woman's normal tendency to daydream and fantasize when confronted with a monotonous lifestyle. On the other hand, Nightingale herself was a compulsive daydreamer who said that daydreaming was severely interfering with her life, so I can't help thinking that the conclusion she made did not refer only to ordinary daydreaming but also to the compulsive one as well. Or do you think she was exclusively referring to normal daydreams?

I don't know if you guys are interested but I added a bunch of new paragraphs in the original post documenting both her daydreaming and her potentially successful attempts to break away from it.

Thanks for adding the new paragraphs. Now we know Florence's struggles a bit better. She was just like us.

Laine said:

I find this interesting too. I found a book written by Florence Nightingale in which she talks about daydreaming being 'dangerous' for her and trying to overcome daydreaming with prayer. Thanks for sharing this.

If I may ask what is this book called

Florence Nightingale's Suggestions for Thought

 By Florence Nightingale, Lynn McDonald

otakugirl said:

Laine said:

I find this interesting too. I found a book written by Florence Nightingale in which she talks about daydreaming being 'dangerous' for her and trying to overcome daydreaming with prayer. Thanks for sharing this.

If I may ask what is this book called

You're welcome guys. As for the books, check out Cassandra where Nightingale tries to deal with daydreaming.

OMG this is so insightful!!! it's nice, in a bad way lol, to know that someone famous and great was just like us. And that she cured herself!

It seems to me we just have to get out there and do something. I feel like MDers want to achieve greatness and feel that life is too monotonous to do so. Everyday I always feel like life is not adventurous enough and that I am not accomplishing anything. Guess I'll have to do something crazy!

And by crazy, I mean fun and meaningful.

That is so interesting!  Thanks for posting this.


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