Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
Some time ago I read a book by Frederick William Faber, who was an English Catholic theologian. He died in 1863. He wrote a book called "Growth in Holiness, or The Progress of the Spiritual Life. " In this book in the chapter titled "Spiritual Laziness" there are paragraphs, that deals with maladaptive daydreaming. Here is my translation:
,,There is no doubt that life is boring. But it is startling how early the young discover this. In fact, the burden of knowing this dullness of life is much more severe for male and female youth than for mature people. Hence the phenomenon that especially young people are used to dreaming. This is the case especially with children without siblings and children, who are brought up in a home or in an institution without sufficient entertainment for prudent upbringing, or with orphans staying with relatives or children of widows surrounded by an atmosphere of sadness and quiet melancholy. In these conditions, children are extremely easily prone to the so-called mental novels, finding in them a certain amusement for oneself, novels whose background is one's own experiences, not always as safe as it seems. Parents and guardians should be extremely prejudiced against this habit and take strict preventive measures immediately, even if the child must be separated for some time because this symptom of dreaming may poison the entire future life. It is guilty mostly of unhappy marriages. I cannot imagine in children an addiction so sinful that would frighten me more than this dreaminess; so is this caustic, stubborn and far-reaching poison. The life of Mrs. Gaskell, described by Charlotte Bronté, most vividly depicts the horror of the devastation that dreams leave behind in its mildest form, in which the dreamer's person appears as seldom as possible in the imaginary adventures. The soul, contaminated by this addiction, becomes the hothouse of all sins. Sin grows in it with exotic lushness. As for the aftermath, it would be better for such a boy or girl to feed on the dirtiest novels all their lives than to have a novel addiction in their head. It would take a separate dissertation to describe all the nooks and crannies of this unfortunate addiction."
A bit higher up, daydreaming is called "setting castles on the ice."
,,Setting castles on the ice is another branch of this busy idleness, and not the most innocent. One who indulges in this dreaming may find that vain glory was the main reason for this. Can one spend an hour dreaming about great alms, about enduring terrible suffering in a heroic way, about suffering martyrdom, about the conversion of nations, about governing the church, about setting up hospitals, about joining strict orders, about exemplary death, about miracles working on one's own coffin so that, despite all the spirituality of these dreams, we would not become shallower and more naive and stupider and more vain because of them? In this way, you come to admire different things without making them real in your life. It is worse than reading novels, because here both the writer and the reader are one person. So, he poisons himself twice with the venom of self-indulgence and oversensitivity. Hence comes the boyish flavor that makes up for some of our actions, and this general lowering of the level, which is revealed in our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. Do not let these strong words surprise us, because setting castles on the ice exhausts and corrupts the soul. It passes over it like a poisonous exhaust, which leaves nothing fresh, green and fruitful, but general weariness, grumpiness and annoyance of thoughts about God."
At the end of the chapter, Father Faber writes that daydreaming is the most dangerous illicit pastime.
This is so interesting!
It doesn't really matter that he was writing it for a religious purpose, I think he actually got something right, or at least he understood that dreaming can be an addiction and can have consequences.
Of course, the solution isn't just being prejudiced about it and prevent people from doing it, but still, I think it's a very interesting and precious piece of literature about MD in the past.
It also makes us understand that it was (is?) quite widespread.
Thank you so much for sharing!