Monday, August 9, 2010

Daydreams and Realities

I wonder if one's inclination to daydreaming is in part influenced by one's sense of life. Daydreaming in small amounts is not harmful of course; the exact nature of my inquiry is that I wonder if a negative sense of life can render one more inclined to excessive daydreaming, daydreaming in such a great amount that it interferes with one's ability to concentrate and be productive.

When I was in the 9th or 10th grade I read a slogan on my math teacher's filing cabinet that, paraphrased, said: "We dream of other realities because we are dissatisfied with our own." I never intended to remember it nor have I thought about it extensively, but for some reason it resonated with me and integrated into my memory. Ever since I was a little boy I was often deeply engrossed in daydreaming and found it hard to concentrate for even minutes at a time. Any attempt to do so would be fought with an urge to give up and daze. This disposition has been with me nearly my whole life, making me think it was my natural state, but recent thinking and developments make me conclude otherwise.

Reiterating from other posts, the current project I'm engaged in right now is for the purpose of both advancing my mental health and status in life. I have to deal with a circumstance that has been cumbersome to my efforts, and my failure to adequately deal with it made it so that it took up a significant portion of my consciousness. No, I never evaded it or refused to do anything about it, it's just that up until now I didn't realize the proper methodology for dealing with it and have been working counter-productively. Anyhow, for months and months this circumstance bothered me deeply and retrogressed my trained concentration to the point that I was excessively daydreaming again, slowing down my intellectual advancement. Unsurprisingly, the majority of my daydreaming was imaging myself dealing with the problem, solving it, and picturing in vigorous detail what the success will look like. It's been helpful in sustaining motivation and relieving stress, but it has also offered me an insight. In my case, that slogan was right: so dissatisfied with my own reality I started dreaming up others to combat the negative emotions and stress I was feeling.

While still not complete, my mere engagement in my current project has done wonders to boost my sense of life and clear my mind. The closer and closer I get to my goal the more and more I feel like I'm already in my projected state of success. My theory is that, without this project, my excessive daydreaming was a defensive mechanism for dealing with a circumstance I felt I couldn't escape from. If you were to believe an alternative, better reality were not achievable, then what else can you do except hopelessly dream and pine for it? However, my circumstance is not undefeatable. After months of thinking I have finally found the solution and have put months of effort into making it real. The alternative reality I seek is becoming real through my efforts, so daydreaming about it is largely unnecessary. The boost to my sense of life is coming from my evaluation of how I'm making my life the way I want it to be, not by how I idly wish it were to be.

At the end of this project, aside from the long post I promise to write about its nature, I plan on allowing the circumstance to leave my mind permanently. In Beyond the Project I mentioned that in my studies I had once achieved a state where daydreaming was very boring to me, and that I actually felt physically uncomfortable if I wasn't intellectually engaged. That state has been lost, but only temporarily and is slowly being regained in the meanwhile.

Based off of this then I offer advice to all those who have a problem or problems that affect their mental functioning: establish a plan for dealing with it and work to achieve it. Believe it or not, just the mere act of writing or thinking up a plan will do well enough on its own to clear your mind and dispel negativity. By constructing a plan to tackle such problems one's envisioned reality will cease being a mere dream and transform into a destination. By putting forth effort you're doing the traveling, and the act of traveling will let you know something is being done about your problem and that it will be cured in the end. It doesn't matter how difficult the problem is or how long it takes to solve it, just draw up some plans and start working, or at the very least construct the plans. In my own situation I am slightly unfortunate: it is possible to cure my circumstance nearly instantly, within a week or so, but I do not possess the income to do so, so I have to wait. I've been working for over six months on my project and still have to deal with the troubling circumstance in the meanwhile, but the project alone is helping me get less bothered by things. Do the same and you might find it having profound effects on your life.

To close I offer a modified slogan: "We dream of alternative realities because we're dissatisfied with our own. To stop dreaming, work those dreams into reality."

1 comment:

  1. Your observation that we create fantasy lives because our real lives are in some way inadequate or unacceptable is dead on. In particular, I've isolated several ways in which this happens. The feeling of futility that you mentioned is one.

    My most tempting daydreams revolve around several (one in particular) of my psychological and emotional needs that are not being met, and that I have no prospect of meeting until I've improved my situation by several orders of magnitude. The daydreams are a way of getting those needs at least partially met. They can be the most disruptive to my progress, too, because although my coding and studying are enjoyable in themselves and are helping me meet equally important needs, I am easily sidetracked by obsessive thoughts about the unmet needs. This makes it harder to build momentum, and is teaching me to maintain a long term vision and to be persistent.

    I also think I acquired the fantasy habit out of sheer boredom. When I was little, there was no internet and very few books in our home, we lived in rural areas with no other kids around, and my religious mother sheltered me out of fear I would become "worldly." My main exposure to the outside world was TV, which naturally creates a passive, dream-like mental state, especially in susceptible people (and the interlacing and flickering of older TV technology made it even worse). So, a part of my strategy has been simple habit changing: avoiding triggers, being aware, and substituting better habits.

    A third challenge, which others may or may not share, is that I have been suffering from a neurological illness. My treatment has been spectacularly successful, but it still isn't complete and some of the more subtle problems remain. My deepest trances, the ones I can't snap out of even to do my grocery shopping in peace, are accompanied by a jittery, revved up feeling, nervous tics, and sleep disruptions. This is reflected in the fantasy content itself, which jumps from scenario to scenario and/or dwells on some particular topic past the point when I become sick of it.

    I really like your theme on how to handle this. It affirms that I have been on the right track. I especially thank you for being willing to blog about this at all. Knowing that someone else is successfully meeting this challenge makes it less humiliating for me and easier to face.


Comment Etiquette

1.) Do not use vulgar swear words that denote sexual activities or bodily excretions.

2.) Employ common sense manners when addressing the author or other commenters.

Additionally, you're welcome to present contrary and challenging positions within these guidelines, but please do not assume that my lack of response, even if I commented before, is evidence of my endorsement of your position.