Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
Talking about the depth of dreams and the variety of ways and reasons we daydream, we can all agree that it starts with a thought. We generate our thoughts through experience and some are good and some are bad, reacting in pleasurable or not so pleasurable reactions. In my book “Vivid Imagination” I want to discuss some chosen chapters out of that I believe are great topics in understanding where Maladaptive daydreamers are coming from.
I am a believer that our dreams have great effect on us and things that are traumatic effect us resulting in a behavioral pattern. A dream and a daydream work in that same way. I have always let dreams of any kind govern my beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. This chapter called “Maladaptive Dreams” is a simple explanation on this. Was it a dream or a daydream? Did it happen or did I imagine it? Either way, the effect still has taken a toll and is remembered over 25 years later .
This is a journey beyond the front doors of our imagination. It is dedicated to all that keep dreaming beyond your fantasies and your fears. Very few have talked about this and even fewer have discovered this condition that goes beyond the most creative intelligence. There are some disorders of the human mind that are not medically recognized or if it is, it remains a subject of assumption to be examined and accessed. Outsiders that have tried to understand have nothing to compare it too except the innocence of their own childhood dreams and make believe. We all grow up and create our own personalities by the way we were raised. Are we a product of our environment and if so where do we draw the line in which a character trait or a natural reaction is a disorder?
Maladaptive daydreaming is a condition in which excessive amounts of time is spent dreaming up a whole different life, escaping to a safe place where the individual has complete control and is getting fulfillment from what they missed in reality. It usually stems from an early childhood situation of abandonment, trauma or fear. Maladaptive daydreaming is anything but a simple daydream, fantasy, thought, or a pretend moment of exciting playtime. I am a lifelong survivor of this condition and before I ever knew what was wrong with me I thought I was alone in this world of crazy adventures, stories, characters, and plots. These stories are not your typical “Alice in wonderland” where I made friends with talking rabbits, and drank tea with other animals. Although everyone with this condition has different story lines and anything is possible, mine was always within the human possibility of believable.
A daydream is a thought or a place your mind will take you as your focus is lost for a minute. These are very much like dreams we have when we are asleep. When we lay down at night to sleep and our body goes into REM, that’s when our body goes into rest and our subconscious is at play. Our dreams are an interpretation of many messages our subconscious or outside elements are trying to pass to our minds. So, I believe that sometimes during the day we will have triggers that will direct our focus off of what are doing and our subconscious will direct our thoughts to a daydream. At this moment, we are still awake, but our body has entered into a mindset where we have “fallen down the rabbit hole” and we are susceptible to our mind’s focus. Daydreams are usually short and sweet and we are able to snap out back to reality very easily. We are usually very relaxed and still with no interactions of any kind with anything outside the daydream.
These daydreams can also lead to fantasies. Much like daydreaming, fantasies are a place in your mind where you can get lost. Fantasies are a bit more in depth, as one has to take a bit more thought and time outside the fantasy to formulate what he or she wants to happen. A person will take time to be the writer for their own storyline. This is very much like when we are kids and we spend hours playing “house”. The famous “let's pretend '' game which is very popular amongst girls and some boys. This is a wonderful game to play as a kid because it develops our imagination and our creativity. We form characters, personalities, plots, we create kids and have a husband or wife. We usually include props such as dolls who play characters, kids, aunts, uncles. We might have a tree house or tent that was the home in which the family lived, and bicycles that were the family car. We interacted with all these things giving life to each other’s characters, and when it was time to go home we simply stopped and went back to our normal life. We stopped even thinking about playtime until the moment came where we were back to do it again. We could look at our tree house and not associate it with being that house that we live in. We simply just know that it is a fun place for playtime.
Since playtime is not real we do not ground any emotions or feelings into places and people that are related to those moments.
That ‘tree house’ for some people holds more than just weekend playtime. Some people look at this ‘tree house’ and see, feel, and remember special moments, painful memories, much like most would if it had been real. The difference is that all the moments that they are remembering are all made up in a world that went way past the ‘let's pretend’. These stories did not stop when mom called us into the house for dinner. The characters went home with them to have dinner and then went to bed with them at night and woke up with them in the morning. This is called Maladaptive daydreaming. The daydreamer is fully aware of the difference between reality and a dream, they choose to be where they are in their head.
Maladaptive daydreaming much like obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, are all very instrumental in mental health.People that suffer from mental illness, carry this weight on their back everyday, fighting it to have a normal life and fit in with the rest of society. These disorders are fueled by chemical imbalances and triggers that stem from our childhood.
A good example of a bad memory that affected my life was set back when I was five years old. I awoke in my single twin bed that stood in the middle of a small room. There were windows on either side of my bed which reminded me of two eyes that were always watching. The bedroom was the last room all the way in the back of the house being completely separated from my parents room which resided to be the first room in the front. If they were to hear me I had to scream much louder than normal. There were woods directly in the back where I could hear the cries and moans of the night, the scurry and sneaky wondering of animals of all kinds. I remember laying there on my back many nights awake listening like the night had its own language. I was determined to figure the coding of this language out, but eventually like most it put me to a relaxed state slumber. I eventually figured out later in life that the night’s noises are a language, it’s the language of relaxation given to us as a gift from the universe. Most of us do not take the time to use it or acknowledge it but it’s there to use and not be afraid of. Being that the house was set by the woods, it wasn’t just animals that we would come in contact with it was insects too. Insects of all different shapes and sizes. That morning I was introduced to an insect that from that day forward would have an incredible impact on my physical and emotional state. I always woke up on my back and still do to this day.
That morning as my eyes opened and adjusted to the bright morning light radiating through the windows I could feel the warm touch of the sun’s greeting. It made me relaxed and as I laid there in peace and security for some time until I opened my eyes slowly for the second time. I looked to the foot of the bed where the ripples from the blankets made it look like a hilly acreage of land with miles of hills and ravines. Suddenly I noticed something coming up over one of those hills and it wasn’t anything to do with me or my imagination. This was my first encounter with a daddy longlegs spider. Its threadlike legs slowly carried its alien-like body towards my face like I was a target. I remember thinking this would be a great time to test my emergency scream to my parents. Nothing would come out, my body was paralyzed and my body temperature began to rise as a cold sweat began to bead on my forehead. This was a new emotion, a new feeling that my imagination had not yet dreamed up. I never thought to even think that fear could have this much impact on a person’s physical body. This long legged beast got to my chest where we could look at each other eye to eye. This is where he stopped. I could feel my heart beat out of my chest so I knew it felt my fear along with the heat radiating from my body. Somewhere I found the courage to throw the blanket across the room, then my body allowed me to jump so high I almost went through the ceiling. My mother then came running into the room. I began to sob as I tried explaining what happened as I pulled her to exit the room in fear of it coming back. I assertively keep repeating that it was still in the room and we needed to get out! She laid me on the bed and as she was stroking my hair ever so gently, she whispered it was just a dream, calm down; it was not real. She repeated this several times. Maybe it was, maybe it was not. It was real to me even if it was a dream. From that day forward I freeze up when I see any kind of spider. The trauma from that day was embedded in my subconscious and from that point on whenever it is threatened it sends my body an alert to react in the way it does.
Dreams have a lot if not more impact on us then reality does. Our subconscious is always alert and sometimes our imagination is the writer for the script in which our subconscious plays off of.