The Power of Writing Down Your Maladaptive Daydreams

While there are many oddities when it comes to maladaptive daydreaming, few are more baffling than the fact that countless hours are spent recounting daydreams in one's head, but those daydreams are never exposed to the outside world.

This is because - as we've talked about extensively before - nearly everyone who engages in maladaptive daydreaming is somewhat embarrassed by that reality. And there's nothing that would bring them more embarrassment than having to regale others with their daydreams.

While this is all understandable enough, why don't maladaptive daydreamers ever write down their daydreams? Not for the consumption of others, but just for the sake of it. 

I'm someone who has kept a daily journal more or less routinely since I've been a teenager. However, even in the depths of my maladaptive daydreaming - when it was consuming so much of my waking life - it never occurred to me to write them down in my journal.

Or, rather, it did occur to me but I could never bare actually committing pen to paper. Even if I knew I was the only one who would ever read what I had written. 

This raises the obvious question: Why? Why is it so hard to take the simple step of writing down what's going through your head, on a near constant loop, for hours a day?

While no one can ever give a true and universal answer to a question that's so rooted in one's on psychological makeup, I think an obvious at least partial answer is that writing down your daydreams is somehow an admission.

Many maladaptive daydreamers are fooling themselves. By this I mean they know they're engaging in it, are embarrassed by that reality, but somehow because it's all happening in their mind they believe it's not "real". However, when pen is committed to paper and you actually write down your maladaptive daydreams they are released, temporarily, from your mind and into the exterior world. 

If this all sounds a bit metaphysical, I suppose it is to an extent. However, there's no doubt that a non-trivial number of those who engage in maladaptive daydreaming feel the "hold" that their daydreams have over them significantly or entirely diminished when they start writing about them. 

And, importantly, there's no need to ever show anyone what you've written. You don't even need to commit your writing to a diary or journal where someone could see it!

You could just take twenty minutes of your day, sit down in a quiet space, and begin writing about your daydreams on a few scrape piece of papers. When you're done, read it through and then throw it out (or, if you're really paranoid, rip it up into tiny pieces). 

If you perform this little exercise (as I'd recommend!) what you'll find is that you'll face a bit of resistance when starting to write. Then you'll likely find yourself omitting some details in your writing. In particular, the embarrassing or outlandish details that you'd never dream of telling anyone else.

Take a second to think about how utterly remarkable that is: you're writing about the daydreams that take up hours of your time and are doing it for no audience other than yourself. Further, you know that you can just rip up this piece of paper you're writing on when you're done -- there will be, literally, no paper trail! But yet, there's resistance to the very act of writing all the details of your daydreams. 

This is because many maladaptive daydreamers - trust me, I know - don't want to externalize what is internal. Because then it reveals the daydreams for what they are: slightly cringey and embarrassing.

But rest assured: there are thousands upon thousands of maladaptive daydreamers who have led very successful professional lives. Indeed, those who engage in these kinds of daydreams tend to be quite creative and go on daydreaming away, in a healthy fashion, for the rest of their lives. 

However, if you've recognized that maladaptive daydreams are an issue for you (you can use the maladaptive daydreaming test to help answer this), then you also need to stop fooling yourself. The first step is being entirely honest with yourself, which can be done first by just writing down what your maladaptive daydreams are.

It won't take hours of your time. Although you should be mindful that quite a bit of resistance will likely take place. Just power through and start writing -- then read the results back to yourself. 

Everyone who overcomes their maladaptive daydreams ends up looking back and chuckling to themselves about the somewhat absurd ways in which their daydreams evolved. They're embarrassing in the moment, but upon reflection are viewed for what they are: just another phase in life that caused some adversity, but that was eventually overcome. 

The best analogy I can come up with for the effect that writing down your maladaptive daydreams has is: imagine that you've gone through your entire life thinking you are outrageously good looking. Then, for the first time in your life, you catch a reflection of yourself in a mirror and you find out (tragically) that you are not actually outrageously good looking. This would be a cold glass of water to the face, to be sure. However, it's likely preferable to going through your entire life living in a fantasy world.

Indeed, one way to think about why you should write down your maladaptive daydreams - since it can seem like a bit of a silly and futile exercise - is that it will allow your internal reality to be expressed, for the first time, to the outside world. This is likely going to be the first time this has happened, and the results may very well be interesting. 

If you're looking for a much more comprehensive set of solutions to your MDD, be sure to check out the book I've written. As mentioned previously, there's also the maladaptive daydreaming test which is a helpful way of thinking, perhaps for the first time, about your maladaptive daydreams through a more critical and introspective lens. 

Wishing you all the best,

Alex

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