What I Learned about Daydreaming (While Not Really Daydreaming That Much)

*Original version posted on Tumblr on May 31st; edited for Wild Minds crowd!*

Something strange happened a few weeks ago. I stopped daydreaming so much. When I do, it seems to be mainly because I need a physical outlet for my energy. So it becomes exercise with a storyline, essentially.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past 6 weeks about daydreaming:

  • Confronting negative emotions helps. The fact that they’re negative doesn’t mean that they’re inherently bad. Feel the sadness, the anger, the hurt. Write it down, shout it out, vent to a friend in a text message or email. Acknowledge your feelings, even if it’s just outloud in your car or your room. Whether it’s quietly or loudly, in your mind or to your best friend, talk about how sad, hurt, angry, or lonely you are. More than anything, reassure yourself that it’s okay to feel the way you're feeling. 

  • Resist the urge to conceal. It’s a defense mechanism to conceal, and if you live with dangerous or hurtful people, such as your own family, it may very well be your a survival mechanism. But if there’s a safe way for you to let it out, as mentioned above, do that instead of hiding it deep inside. If nothing seems to be working, at least be honest with yourself that you are feeling a certain way. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel hurt, sad, lonely, or mad. Those feelings are not bad or wrong. No it doesn’t solve your problem immediately, but I’ve learned I have to confront the uncomfortable, instead of hiding from it, before I can learn to actually fix anything.

  • Get it all out. So you’ve confronted and acknowledged the way you’re feeling, and you’ve managed to resist concealing. This section is related, but distinct and important enough to be separate. What do you then do with all the energy you’d normally spend daydreaming? How do you cope with the emotions and feelings that you just confronted? That answer will be unique for you. I like to write, but writing takes a lot of energy and mental effort. If I have to, I will just scribble on a page. Or I will let myself write, unedited, even if it’s just shitty poetry about how I feel. I like to physically feel the paper and pen, and just doodle, if that’s all I can do. I also like to look up really random questions that I want to know the answer to. Get my mind stimulated by something besides a storyline. I even enjoy cleaning, to clear my head and deal with stress. Like real, confronting the dirty floor that hasn’t been cleaned in 3 months kind of cleaning. You might not know what to do at first, but I would recommend doing something that gets you on your feet, or engages your mind deeply (as long as it’s not triggering). I am a big fan of taking walks, organizing various piles of clutter around my home, and reading guides on how to do things that I’ve always wanted to do.

  • If you still want to daydream after all this, daydream. If you still find yourself wanting to do it out of habit or simply because nothing else has helped, then go ahead and daydream. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and habits won’t be changed after one day, either.

  • Coping mechanisms aren’t easy to replace, but it’s worth it. I encourage you to try these methods more than once. If you don’t have success or you struggle a lot after one time, try again next time. Your body and brain might not be receptive the first one or two times that you try to do something new to fix the problem. But addressing the underlying stress, fear, anxiety, or anger has really helped me. Even if I’m not actively upset or bothered that day, if I take emotional stock on myself, I can come up with some things that need to be addressed.

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Nice!

The problem I've been having lately with finding good advice and coping mechanisms is that people who give advice (therapists, friends) usually suggest that there are strategies of thinking and living that will solve your problems or make your life better.  In my own case, there are some things that really suck that cannot be improved.  I don't have a problem facing it or feeling those emotions or sharing them with loved ones.  But the suck is still there, and I just don't know how to carry on in spite of it without needing some sort of an escape.  The few times I've been to therapists, they have told me I need to work on changing how I'm thinking in the first place.  I need to convince myself that the horrible things are not actually horrible or that they are less significant than I feel that they are so that I can move on.  But this is not true.  I cannot lie to myself like that and walk around pretending.  That's not me.  I need strategies about how you face the truth and live with it despite the fact that it's awful.  This has proven to be much harder.  The best solutions I've come across have been a regular routine that includes extreme mental discipline and time management.  It's hard to live like that though because life happens, and anyway I feel like I'd just be trading my MD for OCD.  Probably everyone needs some way to cope, and this one is better than popping pills or staying drunk or abusing other people.  I don't know.

Emma, there's nothing inherently wrong with daydreaming. Obviously, we all developed it as a coping mechanism. And at the end of the day, if you want to do it, then do it. Also, don't pretend that the horrible things in life aren't horrible. That's not a good strategy. What your therapist and friends are probably saying as outsiders is that you can choose to interpret your circumstances differently; you can choose your reaction. But if that response annoys you or makes you mad, then don't listen to it. However, there will be no real way to "face the truth and live with it despite the fact that it's awful". So that is why you daydream. Or like you said, sometimes you end up trading MD for OCD. It's all about coping mechanisms. If you're in a bad situation that you can't handle right now or change, no matter what you do or think (or what you try not to do or think), then okay. That sucks. Go ahead and daydream. No one is trying to say it's a crime.

Emma said:

The problem I've been having lately with finding good advice and coping mechanisms is that people who give advice (therapists, friends) usually suggest that there are strategies of thinking and living that will solve your problems or make your life better.  In my own case, there are some things that really suck that cannot be improved.  I don't have a problem facing it or feeling those emotions or sharing them with loved ones.  But the suck is still there, and I just don't know how to carry on in spite of it without needing some sort of an escape.  The few times I've been to therapists, they have told me I need to work on changing how I'm thinking in the first place.  I need to convince myself that the horrible things are not actually horrible or that they are less significant than I feel that they are so that I can move on.  But this is not true.  I cannot lie to myself like that and walk around pretending.  That's not me.  I need strategies about how you face the truth and live with it despite the fact that it's awful.  This has proven to be much harder.  The best solutions I've come across have been a regular routine that includes extreme mental discipline and time management.  It's hard to live like that though because life happens, and anyway I feel like I'd just be trading my MD for OCD.  Probably everyone needs some way to cope, and this one is better than popping pills or staying drunk or abusing other people.  I don't know.

There's nothing harmful in it to others but spending my days doing nothing is harmful to my life.  It's a waste which is terrifying.  As for everything else, you are exactly right and thank you for that.  OCD is at least productive!  Though it makes me a difficult person to be around.  I tend to switch between those two extremes, and when I'm easy-going it's because I've let go of all control of my life and am just sitting in a daydream.  I need a balance, I suppose.  I guess I get defensive with therapists and friends (not close friends who know better) because the idea is that I'm negative all the time.  But they are not in the world I'm in, and there is nothing positive about some of the stuff going down the past two years around me.  But there are positive things happening in my life too, and you are right that I can choose to look at those things more also.  Someone else on here suggested some strategies about how to do that.  Also, in my case, the main problems are losing my career, plus a loved one dying and another loved one being chronically ill and needing lots of care which is exhausting.  The career loss - some days I get down on myself and others I feel relief.  So it depends on how I choose to see the problem.  But the other two issues have nothing to do with me.  They are full of ugly feelings and I just don't want to look at them.  It's not that I avoid the feelings or lie to myself about them.  It's just that there is absolutely nothing positive there in them and there is no solution and so I don't want to walk around feeling those things all the time and yet each day I still have to wake up and face them.  How do people do that?  They do it with routines and by putting meaning elsewhere, but I've lost my routines when I lost my career.  I have to build new ones which is hard to do when bad stuff is going on.  And I have to find a way to find meaning which is just a nearly impossible task for anyone.  Right now I have free time- a full month of it.  So I tell myself things like, today I will do laundry, sew, exercise and work on a hobby.   It all just seems tedious though and useless and so my daydream world is there- so much more exciting.  I yearn for it.  Seriously this is helpful to write about because it makes me see from a distance two things.  First I'm horribly depressed and maybe I need more help than I thought I did.  Second I'm totally wallowing in it which is lame, lame, lame!!  

Hey I wonder if anyone sabotaged their daydream world?  I could make all my characters make foolish choices and become boring people and maybe I wouldn't yearn for them anymore! 



Queen Dopamine said:

Emma, there's nothing inherently wrong with daydreaming. Obviously, we all developed it as a coping mechanism. And at the end of the day, if you want to do it, then do it. Also, don't pretend that the horrible things in life aren't horrible. That's not a good strategy. What your therapist and friends are probably saying as outsiders is that you can choose to interpret your circumstances differently; you can choose your reaction. But if that response annoys you or makes you mad, then don't listen to it. However, there will be no real way to "face the truth and live with it despite the fact that it's awful". So that is why you daydream. Or like you said, sometimes you end up trading MD for OCD. It's all about coping mechanisms. If you're in a bad situation that you can't handle right now or change, no matter what you do or think (or what you try not to do or think), then okay. That sucks. Go ahead and daydream. No one is trying to say it's a crime.

Emma said:

The problem I've been having lately with finding good advice and coping mechanisms is that people who give advice (therapists, friends) usually suggest that there are strategies of thinking and living that will solve your problems or make your life better.  In my own case, there are some things that really suck that cannot be improved.  I don't have a problem facing it or feeling those emotions or sharing them with loved ones.  But the suck is still there, and I just don't know how to carry on in spite of it without needing some sort of an escape.  The few times I've been to therapists, they have told me I need to work on changing how I'm thinking in the first place.  I need to convince myself that the horrible things are not actually horrible or that they are less significant than I feel that they are so that I can move on.  But this is not true.  I cannot lie to myself like that and walk around pretending.  That's not me.  I need strategies about how you face the truth and live with it despite the fact that it's awful.  This has proven to be much harder.  The best solutions I've come across have been a regular routine that includes extreme mental discipline and time management.  It's hard to live like that though because life happens, and anyway I feel like I'd just be trading my MD for OCD.  Probably everyone needs some way to cope, and this one is better than popping pills or staying drunk or abusing other people.  I don't know.

I used to daydream as a coping mechanism. When I was a child I was severely bullied and nearly everything that I thought would be a positive change in my life ended in disappointment. Almost nothing during my childhood went right. I don't know why I daydream now. My daydreams are actually more fun than they used to be--maybe I'm trying to make up for the fun I never had when I was a child?

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