We all do it. Daydreaming that is. Whether conscious or unconsciously, we are apt to create imaginary scenarios in our minds. It’s a natural reaction of a mind not actively working out a problem, a neutral state even. The mind wanders when not given explicit instruction or occupation. This is normal.
I’ve always been an avid daydreamer. I can vividly recall summer afternoons standing idly in the right field of a little league game, mitt and hand on knees, waiting for a fly ball that almost never came. During those long fifteen minute spans spent standing, waiting, doing absolutely nothing, my ten-year-old mind had plenty of time to gaze up at the cloud-filled sky and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. I remember thinking about the strangeness of life, about what life as an adult might be like, about the existence of a higher power.
As I got older, daydreaming became like a second language to me. Once I figured out that I had an innate knack for the written word, or so I was told, I swiftly began to fantasize about my inevitable career as a world-renown author. Of course, this would be the beginning of my downfall.
The act of daydreaming, of imagining events that may or may not occur, that may be too fantastical to take any sort of shape within reality, can hit our minds in much the same way cocaine does. These invented versions of our futures produce pleasure in the brain, serotonin, however fleeting. It’s nice to imagine the what-could-bes, the what-ifs, about how great life could be if only X happened. It’s easy to revisit these fantasies, over and over. They cost us absolutely nothing but time…
But like any addictive substance, the return on the daydream comes back less and less each hit. The world is often grim and without any sort of redeeming hope. And when things in the real world are not going quite the way you once imagined they would, it becomes that much easier to dive back into the imagination and the alternate course of a much kinder, more exciting timeline. Herein lies the danger. The more time spent away from the course at hand, spent inside the palace of the mind, the less time and energy available to effect change to reality.
So are you addicted to daydreaming? Do you exist in a less than ideal state in your life/career? Are you so unhappy that you find yourself delving into a nonexistent universe to find relief from your present circumstances? You may think to yourself: I am only envisioning the end goal, I am only motivating myself to reach a better place in life. And while yes, it’s true that visualization is a powerful tool for realizing potential, there comes a point when the visualization overtakes sight.
Like any other addiction, spending an unhealthy amount of time daydreaming about what could be can be effectively detrimental to ever realizing these dreams. Aside taking up valuable mental energy, the come down from the short-lived highs will inevitably add to depression. Much like the body cannot live solely off junk food, carbs and sugar and fat, the mind cannot live solely off the artificially-produced happiness of a life that hasn’t yet been lived… or may never be.