When I first recognized that these daydreams I had – that consumed so much of my waking hours – were abnormal, I began to Google around (as perhaps you are doing right now).
I quickly realized that these absorbing daydreams I was engaged in were “maladaptive daydreams” and that they were actually reasonably common. In fact, in just North America alone nearly 100,000 individual people have searched for “maladaptive daydreaming” just this past month.
However, when I began reading about maladaptive daydreaming there was a common thread: traumatic experiences.
This troubled me. I did not think that I had suffered from any traumatic experiences in youth or beyond. No household is perfect, but to suggest mine engendered me with any form of trauma would be a stretch of the imagination.
But here’s the thing: since resolving my own maladaptive daydreaming, and having talked to so many with maladaptive daydreaming, I’ve realized that maladaptive daydreaming is invariably somewhat related to trauma.
By that I mean, if we expand the definition of trauma to involving scenarios in which you want to escape, then it is true that maladaptive daydreaming nearly always involves those who have faced a traumatic experience.
For me, this meant escaping expectations.
The expectations of family, friends, and peers. The expectations that having gone to an elite college and having obtained an elite job should have led to happiness. When it invariably, at least in my case, did not.
My maladaptive daydreams allowed me to live out an ulterior life. A life that I didn’t necessarily want, but a life in which there was no discontinuity between what was expected of me and what was achieved.
One can say (perhaps rightly so) that the burden of expectations do not constitute trauma. That’s fine. Perhaps they’re right. However, for me I recognize that this was a form of trauma (however slight relative to what others go through) and this ultimately led me into maladaptive daydreaming.
One of the first steps in overcoming maladaptive daydreaming, as I detail in the course I created, is understanding the root of your maladaptive daydreams. How did they occur, what do they represent, what are they preventing you from confronting?
There is no easy way to answer these questions. It requires a level of introspection. However, at their core will be some level of trauma. Some thing, whatever it may be, that you’re trying to escape from having to confront, ponder, and consider.
So how should we define “trauma” for the purposes of maladaptive daydreaming? Well we should consider trauma anything worthy of pursuing maladaptive daydreams for as maladaptive daydreams are invariably a mechanism for escaping having to deal with the realities of life.
If you want to escape from something, then it might as well be considered traumatic. Whether that’s a job, a relationship, a school experience, or something entirely different.
Escapism is a manner in which trauma is avoided (whatever that trauma may be) and maladaptive daydreaming is the mechanism by which that escapism occurs.
As I’ve said for the past few years, the way to overcome maladaptive daydreaming is by first recognizing what it is. When you recognize it’s purely a form of escapism – a safe fantasy your mind has dreamt up – then the first crack has been made.
Take care as always,