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The Consequences of Daydreaming

March 4, 2008

This is an email I sent to one of my best friends, Greg, about the nature of daydreaming.

Greg,

I’m not completely sure what I may have said in the past. Daydreaming is very similar to night dreams, and they’re both wish fulfillment. A person daydreams when they have desires (either conscious or unconscious) which aren’t being fulfilled in real-life. The more someone’s real-life is thwarted, the more they tend to trap themselves in dreaming.

It’s near identical because at night the body uses the same system to fulfill desires the body generates to keep you asleep. For example, if your body starts to send signals, “I’m thirsty, I need water or something to drink”, oftentimes the person will start to dream they’re drinking water out of a vase, or a bowl or drinking out of a river, or something. Basically the dream says, “it’s ok, you’re drinking water now. Don’t worry about it. No need to wake up.” The same happens with food. If you get really hungry, you’ll dream you’re at a food buffet somewhere, eating.

Daydreaming is the same thing. A desire comes up, which you have no way of fulfilling in reality, and so your body shoots it to your imagination, in order to avoid anxiety and depression. (This is one way of dealing with thwarted desires in reality)

Daydreaming is an unstable mental state to be in. It’s basically self-induced hallucination. Various energies are being sent through the body wanting fulfillment, and instead of directing those energies toward something outside the self, and making something happen, instead you redirect the energies back inwardly through your imagination.

One problem about fulfilling desires through daydreaming is that it puts you on the edge of neurosis. You’re not necessarily neurotic if you’re fulfilling desires through daydreaming, but you’re oftentimes right on the edge. It doesn’t take many more bad experiences, or thwarted desires before the mind just can’t handle it anymore.

I used to be king of daydreaming, and I thought it was some sort of building of the powers of my imagination. It’s really nothing of the sort. It’s escapism and very unhealthy. I reacted to this by creating one of my own philosophies embodied in the quote: “You’re experiencing bliss when the only way to distinguish dream from reality is that reality is so much more vivid.” Imagination is one thing, and daydreaming another. Imagination can see a certain reality in the mind, then works toward making it into a reality. Daydreaming is the lazy man’s method, and instead of really making it happen, settles to just dream about it instead. And this dreaming is always much more shallow than the real vivid experience it would be to do it in real life.

I was watching Family Guy the other day with Ek, and one of the characters (Meg) is this loser girl who never has anything good happen to her. This drunk guy kisses her at her dance, then she falls passionately in love with him. The next day he tells her he only kissed her because he was drunk, and then leaves. Then her eyes cross, and she says, “What’s that Brian? Oh yes, I had a wonderful time at the dance! You want to hang-out later? Great!” (Brian’s not even standing there anymore). Next thing you know she builds this shrine to the guy in her room, pasting her picture on top of his, acting like she’s kissing him, and sitting in a dark room staring at this shrine she made to the guy, which is lit by candles.

Strangely that’s one of the best examples I could think of as to how people who live their life through daydreams can easily fall victim to extreme neurosis, if bad things happen to them.

This neurotic condition in her was brought forth as she hit the pain threshold. She can no longer deal with the pain which exists in reality. Or at least, doesn’t want to. She is fleeing reality. She’ll likely repress the actual event happenings, and become amnesic to the entire experience. Anyone who tries to tell her this guy is not her boyfriend, will meet extreme resistance in her. So she’ll live some weird lie, in order to avoid pain, but because she does this, she only digs herself into a deeper hole because the rest of her life will only screw up more, as she keeps avoiding everything.

Another great example of the consequences of daydreaming was in that Star Trek episode I recently saw. The Talosians, the race that lived their life avoiding pain. They destroyed their world through war, then went to living underground. There they began to live a life of pure mind, no reality. They lived in pure daydreaming. Pure illusion. The problem with them is they’ll eventually get completely trapped in their own minds, and forget their own physical existence. (Which is what happened to them). They’ll never have anything new happen, as they’ll have to keep rehashing the same data and memories over and over. Reality has no way of getting inside of them and adding new fresh experiences. They cling to other people with exciting lives to get new input for them to fantasize over. They got to where they’d detect ships flying by, would put them under illusions as well, lure them to their planet, then read their minds, and copy all the data off their ship’s computer, to have new material to daydream with. They capture various races and species, keep them in captivity, but under an illusory life which they create for them (kind of like what happened in the Matrix movies). They watch them make decisions in this fake world, and entertain themselves by watching others. Other people always live the adventure, and they’re always viewing from the sidelines. Since words oftentimes lack the vividness of the actual experience, they end up living a much more shallow version of what the person who was willing to take a risk, and get “out there” lives. A lot of girls, who read romance novels, I suppose you could say this is what is going on with them. Also I think American culture is slowly drifting this way. People live dull lives, and escape it through movies and reality TV.

It’s amazing all the ways people have to not deal with things and clean up their own bad basis. Daydreaming is is just one way it’s done. If you’re in clean basis, you don’t have to daydream. There’s many other ways though. Take projection for instance. You have unconscious bad basis, and you don’t realize it in yourself, mainly because you don’t want to turn your eyes toward yourself and see your own faults. So you instead notice it in everybody else. If you catch a preacher teaching a moral issue over and over, constantly condemning sexual lust, etc., they’re typically doing so because they’re the ones dealing with it the most. Then there’s denial. Meg was using this tactic. “It didn’t happen. It happened how I daydreamed it!” Meg was also using fleeing – running away. Locking herself in some safe location, away from all conflicts. In isolation you can live whatever crazy tale you want, and nobody will be there to tell you none of it’s real. Others use humor and belittle their bad basis. You try to confront them about things, and they make a joke out of it, and won’t take it seriously. Humor is a way of running away, and not confronting the issue. You make light of it, joke about it. I noticed, when I would play video games more, all those guys were insanely into humor and comedy central. That’s all they watched. I’m not condemning such shows. They’re funny. I watch Conan at nights myself. But that can’t be all there is to your life. I always wondered why they never had any realness to them. They do this because they run from life. They make it all a joke. There is no reality. They live the fantasy of the video game world, and the real world is all about jokes, and to be avoided as much as possible. Anger is another way to run from bad basis. They use it to scare people off when they start to confront the bad basis. Humor belittles it, and anger tries to scare them off instead. Protecting their bad basis acting as some sort of warrior guardian, protecting their castle which nobody wants to go to. They only run off those who want to help, because those who don’t care simply leave and don’t want to mess with the person anyways. Then there’s rationalization, where you try to justify your bad basis, and act like it’s clean basis. “Everybody’s in this bad basis”. “Oh, this bad basis isn’t so bad.” Then there’s procrastination, which is just putting off dealing with the bad basis until later. Normally it never ends up being dealt with. Then there’s intellectualization, where the person takes all energy and emotion out of things, and treats everything in a form of pure logic. They attempt to drain all emotional energy out of things which are emotional to them. That way they can try to rationalize to their mind that the issue was “dealt with”, but really, they’re running away from dealing with the issue. “I tried to fix it! I did deal with it! Your advice didn’t work!”

You can see in all of these the same factor, which is running from bad basis. Running from pain. You run from it, and only makes it worse. This leads to some nasty consequences: isolation (scared someone will bring up anxiety in you, because they confront your bad basis), weird quirks (redirections of energies you’re repressing, but they break free through redirecting themselves through different channels), irritability (when people bring up something which either reminds you of your bad basis, or makes you confront your bad basis), and daydreaming (living an imagined life, fantasy, which stunts growth, and experience is limited typically to a shallow living through others).

We oftentimes talk about when you’re in bad basis, you don’t know that you are. Since unconscious thoughts are always repressed things you don’t want to deal with, all Freud’s unconscious stuff is technically an inquiry into bad basis, and its effects. His stuff is a deep inquiry into running from the painful.

But I don’t think all bad basis is of this type. We’ve oftentimes talked about confusion as being bad basis. An example being when you think things work one way, yet you’re so far off your entire foundation you’re assuming doesn’t exist. “What happens when you get to the outer edges of the universe? What would nothingness look like?” Bad basis! You’re assuming things in that statement that isn’t how things work. You may not have anything you’re avoiding unconsciously, but may simply just not have enough knowledge, or understanding yet.

Bad basis is when you’re assuming a foundation which technically shouldn’t, or doesn’t exist.

I think unconscious things which were brought there due to avoidance of pain (repression) are ‘bad basis’ by our definition because people try to defend the things they’re fleeing, which leads to actions defending a stupid foundation, causing unnecessary problems. Meg daydreaming she’s in a relationship which doesn’t exist is definitely bad basis.

There’s also more to dealing with bad basis, unconscious things. Freud oftentimes talks about ‘transference’. I found out that’s what I was dealing with, when I had painful past experiences (such as the trauma of the 6th grade classroom), which gave me appeal to the Ice-man character in top-gun. It’s also the source of the “daddy-complexes” women can have, who have unconscious loves for their father, and this creates weird attractions to things, and problems, in the future relationships they get involved in. Transference is when unconscious memories are drawn up when events in life happen to you, which remind you of something on an unconscious level, and generate various feelings inside of you, which are then transferred to whoever reminded you of the unconscious thing. This makes you love things you technically shouldn’t be loving, and also treating others in ways you shouldn’t be treating them. I remember you mentioned you having stronger emotional attachment to Tim and Kevin than should have existed because you wanted a father figure. That’s also an instance of transference.

Displacement is another form of fleeing things that are painful to you. Instead of dealing with painful events at the source, you hold it in, then displace it on something else. You’re ill-treated by one person, yet take it out on another person. There was one time I was really mad, I went in the woods and started slamming sticks into trees because I was mad about something entirely different. That’s also displacement. (and terrible bad basis).

All of this has one common thread: some event, or events, happening in the past, which the person hasn’t let go of either consciously or unconsciously, which is screwing up the present and future.

I’ve rarely used any of the technical vocabulary when talking about Freud’s stuff to you, but I think we’ve been talking about this stuff so much, we’re needing to start to use the words to quickly identify which concept we’re referring to. I think we should integrate the words transference, projection, and displacement into our normal speech. I think they’re good solid concepts. You can really explain some people’s psychological problems very quickly and easily by using just a few words. Say you go on a date with a girl and she keeps saying, “You know, you remind me so much of my father!” Then she seems to fall in love with you way too quickly. You can call me up and say, “Yeah, it seems she has some sort of unconscious transference going on, and it’s came off on me. Most likely, love of her father.” If you’re around someone who continually complains about others, yet you have suspicion they themselves are dealing with the same issues they keep fault finding in others you could say to me, “He seems to project his own hatred of himself onto others.” That’s a quick and clean way of distinguishing between “complaining about things he or she doesn’t like” from “finding personal inner faults outside in others”. That one time I was telling about that woman I saw in that church service, who was banging her shoes on the floor saying, “Take that devil! Take that! Whoooaaaaaaaaa! I won’t be defeated!”. I could say, “She’s projected some inner struggle of hers onto the devil, and is now displacing other frustrations onto this fiction.” In her case she doesn’t want to deal with the fact that she’s responsible for the bad things happening in her life, so she’s created the fiction, the devil, who she’s blamed for all her problems to avoid responsibility. She gets in the church service and hallucinates he exists, and displaces her anger onto him. In Totem and Taboo, Freud said these sorts of dynamics are how the spirit world came into existence. Since they’re projections of their own inadequacies and inner faults, that’s why spirits were initially all evil. The good spirits came later. He spoke of totemism, and explained how all the weird peculiarities you find in African tribes are all explained from the Oedipus complex. Definitely a fascinating book. That’s it’s own entry, and will have to wait for another time.

– Jason

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