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Daydream: A misunderstood product of artistic minds

Aesha Zala

Far away, in a realm of lies, I found the truth that defines me.
The journey of mind is endless throughout life. Our thoughts are the fuel of this fascinating journey. And thoughts are wayward by nature. Controlling the subject and frequency of unproductive thoughts is the USP of therapy, mindpower workshops, and recreational activities. But what is the correct unit of measuring productive or unproductive thoughts? E.g., I had a colleague at work who used to stare at a list on his desk every day after lunch. While everybody was engrossed in accomplishing the weekly target, this fellow sat zoned out on his chair for hours. My first impression of this act was, “He is weird!”. Six months later, the guy resigned, and I finally confronted him about this gawking. He explained that he was a food connoisseur, and the infamous list contained three steps he needed to complete in order to start his restaurant. While watching this list, he imagined himself cooking, greeting the customers, and receiving amazing reviews. His unproductive daydream became his productive reality when he lived it enough.

Daydreaming is majorly regarded as a lack of attention and escapism from the monotony of day-to-day existence. I, for one, believe in the power of imagination. If the Almighty God were not a visionary, we would not have opposable thumbs. Similarly, if humans did not daydream, many ideas would have still just been dreams. Take the ‘Harry Potter’ series, for instance; J.K. Rowling conceived this mindboggling saga on London’s King Cross station while waiting for a delayed train. In the film ‘Udta Punjab,’ Bauria (played by Alia Bhatt), while enduring all the atrocities, always found her haven in a poster of Goa hanging in her makeshift prison. At the start of her new journey, Bauria visits Goa with the man of her dreams.

For comprehending daydream as a valid psychological tool, we have to dive into the profundity of brain functions. Daydreaming, in the simplest terms, is a situation where an anticipated task gets interrupted by a spontaneous train of thoughts. The dreamer drifts into a non-responsive and idle state of awareness without any stimulus. An average daydream lasts for a few minutes, differing for every person.

Inactivity, while dreaming, is the root cause of negativity towards daydreams. Even the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, believed that daydreams are an outcome of unfulfilled desires and an early sign of mental illness. Nevertheless, new studies indicate that daydreaming is an essential part of standard brain processing, unlike the previous perception that it does not engage our cognitive processing. Research by Eric Schumacher and Christine Godwin of the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that “People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.” So, if you are a frequent daydreamer, chances are you are a smart and creative soul. History is filled with such daydreaming souls who have changed the world for better. For example, Albert Einstein asserted that the groundbreaking ‘theory of relativity’ came to him while fantasizing about riding the sunbeams on a sunny day.

Although daydreaming may have a similar physical impact on people, the emotional consequences widely diverge. It may result in remorse, stress relief, guilty pleasure, etc. In my life, daydreams brought HOPE. After six years of formal education and a Master’s degree, I landed a corporate job. However, the long hours, tedious work, and uninspiring management elucidated one thing; I am not cut out to be a desk jockey. To muddle through the monotonous days, I started writing a journal. In my daydreams, I pictured myself as a writer. With time the setting changed from my office to a picturesque town abroad, and the journal became my first published book. The euphoria of writing resulted in a positive stance towards my work. I had a newfound appreciation and motivation for my job. Over the course of 2 years, I achieved great strides professionally and earned valuable relationships. And finally, I gathered enough courage to leave a high paying job for my ultimate passion. In the time off, I channelized all my psyche into writing. I thrived with every milestone, and the vision of the future became more apparent every day. My daydreams made me fathom the life goal of becoming a professional writer with a legendary memoir one day.
In my opinion, reveries can serve dual purposes; they can galvanize the person and keep them on track. For instance, in the event of verbal conflict, I always visualize the scenario and rehearse my dialogue beforehand. This practice helps gauge the obstacles and after-effects, discover solutions, and neutralize the problem.

Even so, excess daydreaming is not a recipe for success. For example, Raja (Akshay Kumar) of Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi kept dreaming of living life king-style, but never really lifted a finger. Exaggerated dreams can reduce productivity, colour your objective, and instigate addiction in people. The worst form of fancy is ‘maladaptive daydreaming,’ as explained by an Israeli professor Eli Somer his 2002 publication. Somer indicates that maladaptive daydreamers spend 60 percent of their waking life in self-designed make-believe. E.g., Elliot Alderson of Mr. Robot uses an imaginary world and self-designed loop to deal with childhood trauma.

The destructive power of daydreaming is evident, but the potential of the human brain is limitless. With mental exercise and practice, a person can really benefit from this unruly state. Structured daydreaming is an approach where the person replaces unwanted thoughts with relevant ones. In these dream sequences, the daydreamer views the goal, steps to accomplish it, and prospective result as well. Research at Santa Clara University, under David Feldman, establishes that focused visionaries achieve their aspirations sooner than the non-focused ones.

In a nutshell, the human brain is a wonder, and the realm of dreams is still an enigma. There is no universal tool that elevates every individual’s consciousness. But you are the master of your imaginary universe. Manipulating the so-called ‘flaw’ of mind with moderation can be invigorating and powerful. Happy Daydreaming!


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