Most of the world's inventions, innovations, and great works of art began as somebody's dream. Imagination lets us create; it gives us a vision for our future. But if we let it go too far astray, it can cause us big problems. Learning how to daydream in a better way begins by noticing what your imagination does when you let it go "off leash." Without over thinking this, sit back and imagine your future tomorrow, next month, or next year. How do those visions feel to you? Do they make you happy and inspired? Or do you feel tense and numb? It may seem odd, but many of us do daydream in a way that makes us feel depressed, threatened, even trapped. See if any of the following patterns sound familiar to you.
1. Flirting with disaster. The most destructive kind of daydreaming is what the psychologists term catastrophic daydreaming; your very own waking nightmare of all the awful things that might happen. If this is you, the next time you catch yourself having one of these waking nightmares, stop and tell yourself what's happening. it is possible to shake these off just as you would with a sleeping nightmare. the next step is to rein in your mind. If you are a chronic catastrophic daydreamer, this won't be easy, but you can do it. Ms. Becks suggests that trying to think positively only makes us struggle more and reinforces your negative feelings. Instead, she suggests that we stop focusing our attention on "the swirling anxiety" and then refocus the attention back onto reality...the here and now. Start with your body; don't judge the sensations you're feeling, simply notice them. Next, notice and feel your breath as it goes in and comes out. Pay attention to gravity. it's holding you firmly in place. Look around your environment. Notice small details of items and when your mind is fully engaged with your reality, your catastrophic fantasies will begin to disappear. Now that you can, at that moment, cope with whatever is happening. Each moment is all we ever have, for sure.
2. Looping. For most of us, we do this without even realizing what we're doing. When we think about the future we get caught up in a feedback loop of the same-old, same-old thoughts. This is known as looping. We never imagine anything different for ourselves. If we grew up in a household where financial resources and food were scarce, or limited, then we might loop our own fantasies of never having enough. These images sound dull and lack-luster...completely without imagination. But beware! They can be very, very powerful. Our looping thoughts can generate an endless cycle that can keep us from achieving our best future or destiny. Imagination is unlimited and it's free! Why not use it? Begin with dreaming about a future that's just a little bit better. And when that feels comfortable and you can do it with ease, then aim for something a bit better.
3. Pipe dreaming. Dreams should motivate you. Martha Beck feels that having outrageous fantasies can be a bit "like opiates; we get drugged into a happy stupor." We imagine everything, but do nothing. A bit like The Secret Life of Walter Middy." it's easy to fantasize about becoming a famous author or a Hollywood movie star without thinking about the work and training that has to come before these things can happen. fantasy should give you a taste of success that will be enough to keep you going "through the tough hours of fulfillment." If you find that you have long-standing fantasies yet haven't done anything about making them a reality, then your mind could be addicted to these pipe dreams. The fix? Figure out smaller steps. Instead of imagining yourself as, say, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, try imaging yourself getting a part in your local community theater group. Or even taking lessons from a real acting coach! Once you've managed to make that happen, then move on to something a little bit grander. It's all about baby steps.
Once you've found and shaped your right fantasy, it'll bring you joy, not heartache and depression...or worse! And while your fantasy may not lead you to the exact spot you imagined, it could lead you to something even better!
Ms. Beck tells us that "healthy fantasies are one of the best holiday treats you can give yourself...just don't get trapped in la-la land." So best wishes and happy (realistic) fantasizing!