Why it’s good that it’s not real

Coming out of a daydream means you have to face the reality that what you were daydreaming about isn’t real. And perhaps, no matter how much effort you put into improving real life, it’s never going to be as perfect as the life you live in your imagination. Even though you know it’s not real, accepting that it’s not real can bring up some difficult emotions.

Recently, I looked at why magically making your daydreams come true might not make you happy. But let’s flip that around. What if the only reason you enjoy daydreaming about something is because it’s not real? What are some of the reasons you might enjoy it because it’s a fantasy?

You’re not limited by what’s possible

Many of us daydream about a world that isn’t this world. I have a sci-fi paracosm, and half my characters are aliens. But in your case, perhaps you daydream in an earlier period of history, or you have superpowers, or you’ve set your daydream in a fictional world inspired by a novel or TV show. In that case, what you’re daydreaming about isn’t just impossible for you, it’s impossible for anyone. And that makes it easier to accept it’s not real, because no one else is living your dream.

You can hurt people

In your daydreams you can do what you like without worrying about the consequences. You don’t have to take responsibility for your actions. For example, I have one scene in my plot where I confront the character that tried to have me kidnapped, and I end up shooting him. And every time I daydream that scene, I come out feeling strong, powerful and motivated. I definitely wouldn’t feel that way if I shot someone in real life.

And it’s not just about inflicting physical pain. Sometimes we daydream about something upsetting as a way of processing a difficult emotion we’re already feeling. Regardless of whether you’re daydreaming about your own suffering or you’re inflicting emotional pain on your characters, the pain only lasts as long as the daydream. You can let it wash through you, and then you move on with no lasting consequences.

You can make it all about you

In almost any real-life interaction, you have to consider the other person. You don’t want to hurt or disappoint them unnecessarily. You don’t want to set up false expectations. And you don’t want them to think badly of you. But in a daydream, the interaction is all about you, and what you’re getting out of it. Whether you consciously realise it or not, most of your characters exist to make you feel good. In your daydreams, that’s perfectly OK, because you don’t have to consider your characters’ feelings.

You can experiment

If some part of your daydream no longer interests you, you can get rid of it. When a scene doesn’t go the way you intended, you can back up and run it again. If a certain character no longer fits, you can either kill them off or just quietly delete them. And if the next day you decide that change was a mistake, you can go back to how things were. You don’t have to carefully consider in advance what the consequences of a particular choice will be. You can go with the option that looks most entertaining, and if it doesn’t work out, you can try it a different way.

So why not just enjoy the fantasy?

When we get upset that it’s not real, we’re not enjoying our daydreams for the entertaining fantasy that they are. We’re burdening our daydreams with the responsibility of being a life we’d like to live. If you can give that up, and see your daydreams as simply your mind’s way of having fun, you set yourself, and your daydreams, free.

In the safe space of your imagination, you can explore any topic you choose, regardless of what you think it says about you, or whether you’d want to experience it in real life. If things emerge in your daydreams that you want to embrace in real life, that’s great. But if your daydreams are just a fun fantasy, that’s OK too. Because although it’s not real, it feels real to you. And that’s what matters. Because experiencing it in your imagination is a lot better than never experiencing it at all.

[Photo by Johannes Plenio]