Daydreaming gives life a lift | Sunday Observer

Daydreaming gives life a lift

Daydreams are pleasant thoughts you have while you are awake. Dr Erantha de Mel in ‘Optimizing the Infinite Mind’ says daydreaming is induced by a visionary fantasy experienced while you are awake. You may dream about future plans or reminisce about past experiences. According to him, this type of consciousness tends to be related to happiness, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions. They may occur due to social isolation, boredom or sensory deprivation. The celebrated psychologist Robert S. Feldman says unlike dreams that occur during sleep, daydreams are more under your control. Their content is often more closely related to immediate events in the environment than in the content of the dreams that occur during sleep. Although most daydreams include sexual content, they also pertain to other activities relevant to your personal life.

Psychologists consider daydreams as a typical part of waking consciousness, even though our awareness of the environment around us declines while we are daydreaming. A recent study shows that around two to four per cent of the population spend at least half their free time daydreaming. Although most people daydream much less frequently, almost everybody fantasizes to some degree.

The contents of such fantasies are mostly about mundane events such as shopping or romantic involvements. However, frequent daydreaming may suggest psychological imbalance, there is no direct link between daydreams and psychological disturbances.

In the past many behavioural scientists considered such daydreams to be unimportant and time-wasting. Sigmund Freud said, “Happy people never make fantasies, only unsatisfied ones do.” However, modern psychologists who have done clinical and experimental research opine that daydreams are quite normal. They say daydreams put us through mental rehearsals and keep us aware of the unfinished business in our lives. That means daydreams are a real part of our growth and self-development. What is more, daydreams help us to get rid of dull situations and plan for the future with additional strength.

Experiment

In a laboratory experiment volunteers were asked to listen to a series of signals and press buttons to indicate whether the tone was higher or lower. Every 15 minutes the volunteers were asked whether they had daydreams unrelated to the task. Although most adults averaged about 90 per cent accuracy in the attention-demanding task, most of them were found to be daydreaming.

Prof. Brian Sutton-Smith of the University of Columbia describes what daydreams do for us. He coined the term “Vivification.” According to him, daydreams add colour and intrigue to our lives and make them more exciting. However, he warns that we should not daydream while driving or during a business conference.

Research suggests that daydreams can make our lives more creative and original. A research involving creative writers, artists and poets has proved that they make use of fantasies and playful mental explorations to create outlandish creations.

Even some of the greatest scientists who are generally immune to emotional outbursts, have daydreamed occasionally. Michael Faraday, one of the founders of electromagnetic theory, saw himself as an atom under pressure and gained insight into the electrolyte. Even the great physicist Albert Einstein had daydreamed about what would happen if a man could fly out into space at the speed of light. It is said that he developed his Theory of Relativity from that daydream. Engineer Charles Kettering who was trying to determine why kerosene “knocked” more than gasoline saw in his daydream an arbutus which bloomed early in the spring even beneath snow. It gave him the idea for tetraethyl lead.

Psychotherapy

We sometimes use the past events to explore the future. A middle-aged man saw himself visiting his uncle’s farm as a child in his daydreams. It was a recurrent daydream which bothered him a lot. While undergoing psychotherapy he began to re-examine his life. He was a big businessman in the city, but inwardly he desired to be a farmer in the country. When he was convinced of what he should do, he changed the pattern of his life.

Most working people have their own ambitions. A bank clerk may wish to be a bank manager. He will see himself as a manager in his daydreams. By doing so, he will detect overlooked strengths in his personality. He will also realize that certain ambitions are worth developing and pursuing.

Psychologists have discovered that pleasant daydreams help us to control our alpha rhythm associated with periods of relaxation. According to medical experts, daydreams have helped some people to control their heart rate and blood pressure as well.

Positive signs

Sometimes we undergo stressful periods with tensed-up feelings. On such occasions it is good to drift into a daydream and try to identify the underlying conflicts. Even if you fail to identify the problems, you will see some positive signs while daydreaming. Sometimes when we pray or meditate we drift into a daydream. This is something inevitable.

Although most of us live with our family members and associate with friends and colleagues, there are people who live alone due to various reasons. In moments of isolation, they can conjure up companions in their daydreams and have interesting silent dialogues with them. You can have a private dialogue with an imaginary person. Those who cannot visit foreign countries can become armchair travellers and enjoy their time. I had a university friend who used to visit ancient Rome in his daydreams. He was a student of Western Classical Culture and he would describe ancient Rome as if he had lived there!

According to a research done at Yale University, daydreams provide insights into our behaviour. David McClelland, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, says daydreams of achievement will be reflected in a person’s progress. More than achieving our targets, daydreams give us strength especially, during times of adversity.

Herman Field, a suspected American spy, spent five years in a Polish prison. He and his fellow prisoners used to relate their fantasies to each other. When he started writing a novel about their experiences he completely forgot about the psychological torture he was undergoing.

Some people fear that they will not be able to come out of their daydreams. Research does not support such a view. An average person can judge what is reality and fantasy. Daydreaming is better than empty conversations with your friends or colleagues. It is also more rewarding than staring at the idiot box for hours. You will feel better mentally and physically if you daydream whenever you wish to do so.

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