“I always daydream about doing something big and impactful,” if that sounds like you, you should read this article to understand the probable causes
Anyone experiencing maladaptive daydreaming would agree that these dreams give an elevated level of happiness. They bring you to a different world and help you to cope with real-life difficult situations or boredom. But then, there comes a point when you feel these daydreams are affecting your life adversely and you seriously need help. The journey of reducing the intensity of daydreams starts with finding their causes. And to understand the maladaptive daydreaming causes, you need to find a common pattern in your daydreams.
In other words, you need to observe your imaginary characters’ roles and behavior to get an idea about the probable reasons behind your maladaptive daydreaming. To help you in this journey, we have provided three main types of maladaptive daydreaming themes and the probable reason behind the same.
Part 1: The Impactful Change Maker. Raising voice and/or fighting for any type of cause, justice, peace, or any important issues.
Part 2: The Celebrity Treatment. Maladaptive daydreaming about being recognized and gaining admirers. Daydreams in which you are a famous person, and people around you appreciate your work, contribution, wealth, looks, or courage.
Part 3: The Perfect Love: You dream about the perfect love story and relationships. It also includes harmonious relationships with your lover, spouse, parents, kids, colleagues, friends, relatives, or even roommates.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific research done on this subject. Therefore, we are using behavioristic attributes to understand this topic in more depth.
Part 1: The Impactful Change Maker
In this type, you dream about doing something impactful. Either you are a social worker, environmentalist, politician, or any powerful person who is doing good work for humanity. Sometimes you might find yourself fighting against something that doesn’t even make sense in real life, like fighting against aliens or any superficial or mythological characters. You might also dream about being someone that doesn’t exist in this realm, like superheroes or characters from a novel/movie/show. You can also find yourself taking an act of revenge against some kind of personal injustice or bringing peace to society (or certain people).
The imagination becomes more vivid when you watch certain shows, movies, news, or read some types of literature. You find yourself becoming one of the characters of the story and how you would have dealt with the situation better than the original story! Your mind expands the scope of your imaginary character’s role and the actions it performs.
You might also feel anger, frustration, pain, grievances, and aggressiveness same as a vengeful person feels. But in the end, you feel a satisfaction you have done something right. You fought for some injustice, and truth triumphed.
Recognize the cause/mission for which your characters in the maladaptive daydreaming are deeply concerned
No matter what character and story you choose in your maladaptive dreaming, notice that the main theme and cause remain the same/similar. Go deeper in this and observe which particular type of unjust your dream character (mostly yourself) fights for? Is it fighting against any form of gender inequality? Or injustice is done towards the poor, disabled, and unprivileged? Or are you fighting against any type of bullying? Are you helping someone to come out of a painful situation or deal with mental health issues?
Some dreams might look foolish and meaningless, but when you inspect deeply, you will find a certain pattern. Let’s say, for example; you might find yourself Hermione in Harry Potter world and dream that how efficiently you helped to defeat Voldemort! You might also come up with different innovative strategies not used in the original book and imagine different emotional scenarios. Although all these sounds too meaningless, if you see the bigger picture, you are dreaming about helping powerless people that are being the victim of a powerful villain. Which situation closely resembles the real-life situation? Maybe people suffering in non-democratic countries where cruel dictators rule? People stuck in a war-like situation to get freedom and democracy? Unprivileged people working in an underpaid job and exploited by the rich businessman?
If you find this pattern familiar, these could be the maladaptive daydreaming causes.
1) You feel that your work doesn’t have much/any impact on the company, business, and people around you.
You are not given impactful responsibilities in your workplace. “Impactful work” doesn’t mean a good-paying job and a high corporate hierarchy position. It’s mere an individual’s perspective about his/her nature of the job. Someone might be working as a chef and still feels that their work is highly important as each dish they make directly affects the customer, restaurant reputation, and future of the business. In contrast, someone working in a managerial or specialized role might feel unheard by the superiors and start believing that their ideas don’t matter to anyone and end up feeling unimpactful.
You might be a housewife, unemployed, or retired person and feel that your work (or you, as a person) doesn’t matter. But from the inside, you also feel that you are much worthwhile, and if given a chance, you can do a lot of things and make a great difference. While it is a common thing people feel about themselves, you get an intense feeling of helplessness.
In other words, you are not able to change the situation and get meaningful work even if you want to. For example, you are not able to leave the job because you have responsibilities and no new skills to get an impactful role. You might be a retired person or someone who is not able to get the desired work due to age, disabilities, or lack of education/experience. And that feeling of getting trapped in this phase of life is making you sink into maladaptive daydreaming.
In such circumstances, your mind starts craving to feel important and be heard. It wants to feel that it is able to make an influence as per its true potential. But when the external environment doesn’t support this need, your mind extracts it from maladaptive daydreaming. It satisfies its need of feeling impactful by dreaming characters that make big effects on the world. For example, your mind makes strategies to end the world’s biggest problems, fix the gender inequality or environmental problems, or simply help others in general, and make your imaginary characters work on those strategies.
2) You have been victim to or closely observed any sort of injustice.
Now, this is pretty much obvious. It is a well-known fact that people who have been victims of abuse or hardship at a tender age carry that trauma for a long time. But for maladaptive daydreaming, it is not necessary that something has happened to you or your loved ones.
You might have heard something or seen it in the movies or news, and that thing has shaken your emotions deeply. You might have visited or heard about some third-world countries where people are suffering from poverty, starvation, and epidemics, and you feel helpless that you are not able to do anything. You can be feeling hidden guilt (sometimes on an unconscious level) for being more privileged than those poor souls.
Now understand that you have two choices
1) Is there anything you can do about it? Can you spend some hours a month volunteering for a nearby organization that works for the cause you are daydreaming about? Can you donate to the organizations that work for that cause? But what if you don’t have any means and time to go out and work for a cause or no money to donate? There’s another thing you can try. Spread awareness leveraging your maladaptive daydreams via writing. Write down your vivid imagination and publish it online. If you think your words can raise awareness among people, inspire others, or provide emotional support to even one soul, you can definitely pen down your maladaptive daydreams. Post them on social media and online discussion groups. This might help you to feel doing worthful. You can write all your emotional responses, frustration, and ways your imaginary characters helped the world. There are many platforms like Medium, Muckrack, Quora, etc., where you can publish your thoughts or non-fictional stories. You can also request some private sites (like ours) to publish your content on their blog. This will help you divert your creativity in a productive way and give you a sense of accomplishment.
2) I can’t do anything about it: If there’s nothing you can do stated in the above paragraph, you need to understand that your imagination is not going to solve any problems. It is just your mind’s tactic to feel the “impactful.” You should stop fueling those imaginations by recognizing the cause. What I mean here is, there are some movies, shows, books, social media groups, news channels, or magazines that talk about the cause you are highly sensitive to. When you go through those media/writings, your mind sends you signals like “ok, this is your time to make an impact,” and you keep spiraling in the maladaptive daydreaming. You need to recognize your “cause” and avoid everything that covers that issue. And try finding work (no matter how small it is) that makes you feel impactful.
For example, these are some things I generally do. I learn a new dish and cook for your family to surprise them. Their appreciation makes me feel that I did something worthwhile. I volunteer in a nearby animal rescue center one weekend/month. When I see their joy while playing with me and feel their excitement while I feed them and take care of them, I feel like doing something valuable. In the same way, I spend time in writing to spread awareness of various mental issues. Just look around and brainstorm what you can do to feel impactful (no matter how small the act it is).