I believe the way to sustainably and self-compassionately overcome maladaptive daydreaming is not to stop daydreaming completely, but to turn your maladaptive daydreaming into immersive daydreaming. In other words, you move from your daydreaming controlling you and negatively impacting your life, to you controlling your daydreaming and using it to enhance your life. But how do you know when you’ve made that change? How do you know you’ve healed from maladaptive daydreaming if you’re still daydreaming?
You accept that your daydreaming is part of who you are
You were born a daydreamer. It’s how you think. It’s never going away. Your daydreaming became maladaptive because you learned to use it as a way to avoid problems and negative emotions. Your daydreaming was never the problem; it was the way you were using it. Once you accept that, you can accept your daydreaming as part of who you are without being ashamed of it.
You don’t feel guilty for daydreaming
When you can’t control your daydreaming, you tend to daydream when you should be doing other, more important, things. Then you feel guilty about what you see as wasted time. But when you have control over your daydreaming, you can use it as a reward at the end of a day well lived, or see it as a hobby that you indulge in in moderation.
You’re not sad that your daydream world isn’t real
When you overcome maladaptive daydreaming, you’re able to accept your daydream life for the delicious fantasy it is. You know that your daydream world isn’t the only place you can be happy. You don’t need it to be real in order for your life to have meaning. You’re able to want one thing in your daydreams while wanting something completely different in reality.
It’s your real life that gets you out of bed in the morning
You won’t overcome maladaptive daydreaming until real life is worth coming back to. Maladaptive daydreamers struggle to get up in the morning because the urge to daydream the minute you wake up can be overwhelming. But when you overcome maladaptive daydreaming, you can find something in real life that excites you enough to get you out of bed. You’re able to stay in reality because there’s something there for you.
Your daydream life and your real life are in balance
When you overcome maladaptive daydreaming, you can balance your real life and your daydream life. You can take care of your responsibilities in the real world before you daydream. Your real-life friends mean as much to you as your imaginary friends. You use your daydreams to inspire you to work towards what you want in real life. And you feel fulfilled both while you’re daydreaming and while you’re not.
You want to daydream but you don’t have to daydream
Maladaptive daydreamers use their daydreaming as an unhealthy coping mechanism. When daydreaming is the only way you can deal with negative emotions and overwhelming situations, it’s sometimes a necessity. Overcoming maladaptive daydreaming means learning to sit with negative emotions. When you learn to process your emotions without them overwhelming you, you won’t need to escape them by dissociating into a daydream. And when you don’t need to daydream, you set yourself free to daydream without guilt when you choose to.
You see your daydreaming as a gift
If your daydreaming was maladaptive for a long time, you probably came to hate it. You might have blamed it for all the problems you were using it to run away from. You probably wished you hadn’t been born a daydreamer. But when you overcome maladaptive daydreaming, you realise it was the maladaptive part that caused all the problems. You’re grateful for your ability to conjure up a world that brings you so much happiness. You fall in love with your imagination.
Overcoming maladaptive daydreaming is never easy. You have to work hard to make your real life somewhere you want to be. You have to be brutally honest with yourself about the problems you’re running away from. And you have to forge a new, and kinder, relationship with yourself and your daydreaming. But when you’ve made the effort, when you can finally see that your daydreaming isn’t maladaptive anymore, it’s a beautiful feeling. Because you know you’re finally free to enjoy every aspect of who you are and the lives you’re living.