Top Five Maladaptive Daydreaming Books
Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people each month search for information on maladaptive daydreaming, there is shockingly little writing on the subject (both in terms of academic papers and in terms of books for a general audience).
Because of the dearth of books written directly on maladaptive daydreaming, I've found the best books to read to help you better understand MDD discuss broader (but still practical) elements of psychology and philosophy. Then it's your job, while reading these books, to notice the parallels and similarities to maladaptive daydreaming and how you can take the lessons from these books and apply them to your own situation.
The following books are all quite short and very readable. They require no background in philosophy, psychology, or any field of science to understand. These are all books that, at their core, deal with trying to help you find contentment by emptying your mind of the "clutter" that so many maladaptive daydreamers have and trying to help you reframe your internal dialogue in a more helpful and positive way.
Further, these books have all also stood the test of time and been read by millions of people (perhaps you've already read one or two on the list!).
Maladaptive Daydreaming Books
Below is a quick list of the top maladaptive daydreaming books. For each book I'll give a quick overview of the book itself, but then more importantly I'll discuss how I think the book relates to maladaptive daydreaming.
- Solving Maladaptive Daydreaming
- Man's Search for Meaning
- The Courage to Be Disliked
- Wherever You Go, There You Are
First, I'd be remiss if I didn't actually list my own book. I wrote it after overcoming my own maladaptive daydreams, which had preoccupied me for years and had a severely negative impact on my life.
It was never my intention to write about my experience with MDD. However, because of how little had been written about maladaptive daydreaming I decided that it was essential for someone who overcame it to write about it.
More specifically, I thought it was essential to describe the methods, techniques, and tricks I used to overcome it. I wanted to create something that would be practical - not overly philosophical - and that could be used as a guide to stopping your maladaptive daydreams.
Solving Maladaptive Daydreaming is available in digital format here. After ordering you'll be able to download a copy of the book immediately.
Man's Search for Meaning is one of the best-selling books of the past century, with over 20,000,000 copies sold worldwide.
This short book was written by Frankl while being held in a concentration camp. However, what makes it such a timeless and profound book is not the circumstances that Frankl found himself in, but rather the psychological and philosophical insights he gained as a result of it.
While he - along with all of his fellow prisoners - found themselves in a deeply depressing environment, some managed to maintain hope, optimism, and a clear head despite it all. Most others, however, fell into despondency.
The primary insight that I drew from the book - as it pertains to MDD - is that a priority in life, no matter one's current circumstances, must be to have something to look forward to. It doesn't have to be something large or life-altering, it can be as small as going out to a nice dinner, seeing a movie that will come out in a year, or finishing up a school- or work-related project.
Part of the issue that many maladaptive daydreamers have (myself included) is an inability to cope well with stress. My personal belief is that this ties in with generally being too inside of one's head. One of Frankl's core insights is the need to have external things to look forward to - no matter how trivial they may seem - and to not spend too much time contemplating your present circumstances.
Chances are this small book - The Courage to Be Disliked - will be like nothing you've ever read before.
It's written in a dialogue format between a philosopher and a young person where the philosopher is a proponent of the Alder school of psychology.
In my view, most maladaptive daydreamers are overwhelmed with an internal dialogue from their daydreams. This has a way - like all chaotic systems do - of growing a bit out of control over time.
What The Courage to Be Disliked tries to do is present ways of reframing the way you think about things in general and (most importantly) how you think about yourself.
What maladaptive daydreamers are most likely to take away from this book is the importance of not caring so much about what other people think about you. Partly because other people think much less about you than you think, and partly because it rarely ever matters in the end what other people think about you.
The Courage to Be Disliked will undoubtably make you think about things differently. I haven't become an adherent to the Alder school of psychology entirely, but one of the best things you can do when in the midst of maladaptive daydreaming is spend time contemplating alternative and more positive ways of thinking about yourself and your life.
An irony about maladaptive daydreaming is that you spend so much time in your own head that you never take a pause and let your mind clear.
In the coming years academic research will likely note that the rise of smartphones and having a constant source of stimulus has lead to the rapid increase in maladaptive daydreaming that we've seen over the past five years.
Personally, I've found the practice of mindfulness to be very helpful. Many get a bit queasy when they hear "mindfulness" or "meditation", but I'm not talking about adopting these as philosophical practices that require hours a day.
Rather, when I talk about mindfulness I refer simply to taking a moment to try to clear your head and think about nothing. A great way to prevent maladaptive daydreams from taking up hours of your day is to notice when they're occurring - even if you're in the midst of them - and then take several deep breaths and try to clear your mind. This is difficult to do at first, as you will want to continue your daydreams, but over time you'll realize that you are able to slowly lessen the appeal of MDD by cutting them off before they end.
Wherever You Go, There You Are is a relatively short book that takes a practical approach to how mindfulness can be implemented in the modern world. It doesn't preach anything to you -- rather it just notes ways in which mindfulness could help clear your mind and make you more at peace as you go about your daily routine.
Here's a great interview with the author, Jon Kabbat-Zinn, if you'd like a preview of the way he thinks about mindfulness.
While all the books listed so far have been written in the past hundred years, Meditations was written over 2,000 years ago by the philosopher and emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius.
Don't worry about the language of Meditations being difficult to understand because of how long ago it was written. The English translation by Gregory Hays is phenomenal and very readable.
Meditations is a series of short essays on a wide range of issues that will occur in everyone's life. Included are essays on how to stay productive, not care about what others think about you, and how to be kind even when others have wronged you.
Marcus Aurelius is likely the most famous of the Stoic philosophers. Stoicism is a practical philosophy that has seen a resurgence over the last ten years. I think the reason why Stoicism has gained in popularity is that the Stoic's preached trying to keep your mind clear, having clear goals (even if they're trivial), and not getting caught up in either your own emotions or the emotions of others.
Contained within Meditations are many great insights that are applicable to maladaptive daydreamers. For example, Aurelius notes that when you are distressed by external events (which often leads to maladaptive daydreams) what you are really distressed about is how you think about events, not the events themselves. If you forgive yourself for making a mistake, or forgive others for having wronged you, then you will not be mentally distressed. The fact that this insight was formulated over 2,000 years ago - and is still so true today - shows that the timeless wisdom of Aurelius.
While the list of books above - with the exception of Solving Maladaptive Daydreaming - don't deal directly with maladaptive daydreaming, there are deep lessons to be learned in all of them that can help you with your MDD.
All of these books get to the heart of how we can stop our minds from feeling so cluttered with thoughts; how we can properly mentally frame the problems in our lives and realize they aren't as difficult as we think they are; and how we can try to find contentment in life not by running away from life, but by vigorously engaging in it.
As always, if you are dealing with unwanted daydreams of your own, I wish you the very best of luck in your journey to overcoming your daydreams. If you aren't quite sure if you have MDD, consider taking the maladaptive daydreaming test.
One silver lining to struggling with MDD is that it will likely lead to you reading more psychology and philosophy, which can help you deal with issues far beyond just maladaptive daydreaming for the rest of your life. So, keep reading as much as you can.