Do you use your daydreams for comfort? I do. They’re the place I run to when real life is upsetting or overwhelming. A hug from one of my characters can immediately make both my worlds – the real world and the daydream world – feel brighter. But this post by Ralph Marston helped me realise that there are two types of comfort. One that helps and one that hinders.
Comfort that inspires you
The first sort of comfort is the one we’re all chasing. It’s the safe, secure comfort that comes from having a rock-solid base of acceptance and unconditional love that you know you can always rely on. It’s the comfort that comes from having your basic emotional needs met. It’s the comfort that tells you you’re safe.
When you have a deep connection to one or more of your daydream characters, when that character loves you unconditionally, you’ve created an anchor. That character is someone you can come home to, no matter what happens in the real world.
And that allows you to show up in the real world with more courage and determination. It helps you build your sense of self-worth. Because you’re no longer dependent on the external world, and the people in it, to meet your needs. The reassurance, comfort and acceptance you need is there for you, whenever you need it, just a daydream away.
Comfort that constrains you
But in maladaptive daydreaming, sometimes we experience comfort differently. We focus on the gap between the blissful comfort of our daydreams and the difficult challenges of real life. This kind of comfort steals our motivation. We don’t work to improve real life because it feels so much easier, so much more comfortable, to just imagine a better life.
Instead of seeing the comfort of our daydreams as a solid foundation, we see it as the end goal. We want everything to be perfect all the time. And the only place that can happen is in our daydreams.
When we prioritise being comfortable over everything else, we stop achieving. We stagnate. That’s a feeling many maladaptive daydreamers can relate to. We think we’ve fallen behind in life. And we tend to blame all the time we’ve spent lost in our daydreams. But it isn’t just about the time. It’s also about all the things we never tried because it seemed so much easier to daydream it than to actually do it.
Which sort of comfort do your daydreams give you?
So, do your daydreams give you the confidence to go out and make the most of reality, safe in the knowledge that your secure, comforting daydream world will be there when you need it? Or, do your daydreams wrap you in a big stifling blanket of comfort that makes you want to stay in them forever and pretend reality doesn’t exist? The former is going to be much healthier in the long run than the latter.
Turning constraining comfort into inspirational comfort
If your daydreams are holding you back because they’re too comfortable, what can you do about it? There are two things that have helped me.
First, accept that your characters love you unconditionally and that love is real. The comfort you feel in your daydreams isn’t going anywhere. It’s a valid part of how you maintain your mental wellbeing. There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be comforted by someone who doesn’t exist. What you’re actually doing is accepting that you’re worthy and deserving of that love. And you’re also reducing your dependence on external validation.
Second, talk to your characters about what’s going on in real life. Don’t keep your daydream world and your real world quite so separate. Because your characters have faith in you, even when you don’t. So when they know what’s going on in reality, they’ll encourage you to show up in the real world as the same awesome person you are in their world. When your inner critic tries to tell you you’re not good enough, or you’re not deserving enough, your characters will tell you that you are.
When your daydream world is the safe refuge from which you venture out to live your best life, it helps you become your best self. You become less dependent on other people to give you the love and emotional support you need, because you can find it inside you. And once you don’t have to obsessively chase other people’s love and acceptance, you’re free to chase the things that really matter to you. You can be unapologetically, unashamedly your authentic self. And the weird thing is, once you start doing that, you’ll probably attract people to you who appreciate that authenticity.