We daydreamers tend to be impulsive. In our daydreams, we’re used to getting exactly what we want the moment we want it, which does little to develop our patience. Also, we can control the outcome of every situation, so we don’t automatically think through the possible consequences of something not going to plan. In our daydreams, impulsivity makes our plots exciting and adds an illusion of unpredictability. But in real life, our impulsivity can sometimes get us into trouble.
We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve said something we didn’t mean or acted without thinking and unintentionally upset someone we care about in the process. In this post, I’d like to share a two-step daydreaming plan that helps me put things right when a real-world friendship has taken a wrong turn.
Step 1 – Give myself space to calm down
A consequence of being impulsive is that I tend to want to fix things right now. But jumping back into a tense situation while my emotions are still running high tends to lead to more impulsivity and generally makes things worse. So instead, I check out of real life for a bit and immerse myself in my daydream world. I spend some time somewhere where everything is OK and the argument or misunderstanding I’m running away from never happened. Using daydreaming, or any other addictive behaviour, to avoid dealing with a problem isn’t good as a long-term strategy, but using daydreaming as a distraction until the emotions subside can be very helpful.
The other thing daydreaming gives me in this situation is some perspective about myself. If I’ve unintentionally upset someone, I’m likely to be questioning whether I’m a good friend, or telling myself that I should have been more thoughtful. And that can quickly escalate into thinking that I always upset people, that no-one likes me, and that I’m a failure as a friend/wife/mother. My characters are great at getting me out of that mindset. They love me unconditionally, and they’re great at reminding me of all the good qualities I have. It’s very hard to keep telling myself that I’m a failure when I have a whole cast of voices in my head telling me the exact opposite.
Once I’ve started to calm down, I then find it helpful to tell my characters what happened, or to weave a very similar situation into a current plot. In retelling the story, I almost always realise that there is another way of looking at it, and if I don’t my characters certainly will. Just the act of telling them that I messed up, and instantly receiving their understanding and forgiveness, helps me to see the incident as it was – an unfortunate event that can be mended rather than a catastrophe that’s going to negatively impact the rest of my life.
Step 2 – Daydream the perfect resolution
Once the heightened emotions have passed and I’m able to view the situation more rationally, it’s important to draw a line under the running-away part of daydreaming and turn it towards bringing the situation to a successful resolution. But I’m not done with the daydreaming yet. Now I have a daydream conversation with the person I’ve upset, where I put things right in an “idealised” way. It’s a daydream, so I’m in control. The other person doesn’t have to act the way I know they would in real life. And I can say things that I wouldn’t say in real life. I can explain why I acted in the way I did, without having to worry about it sounding like an excuse. I can ask for forgiveness and know that I’ll receive it. I can give the person a hug without worrying about being pushed away. I can fully and completely reconnect with the person I’ve upset.
This daydream isn’t rehearsing a future conversation; it’s putting me in the right mindset to have that future conversation. By daydreaming an idealised resolution, I’m restoring a connection in my mind. I’m bringing the other person and our relationship back to where they should be – a valued and cherished part of my life. Reaching that idealised resolution in my head gives me two things: first, it heals any guilt or shame about the part I played in causing the problem, and second, it allows me to move forward from a place of love, compassion and optimism.
After taking the time to daydream in the very purposeful way I’ve outlined above, I can then take steps to heal the rift my impulsivity created. I can apologise to the person I’ve upset, and that apology can be delivered with authenticity and compassion because the resolution has already happened in my mind and the conversation is therefore rooted in the love and respect I have for the other person, rather than any anger or resentment I might have felt about what happened. As a result, that conversation is never as hard as I’m expecting. The daydreaming has helped me get a sense of perspective, it has helped me to forgive myself and it has helped me approach the real-life conversation with kindness and confidence. So although this is now real life and I can’t control how the other person is going to react, it no longer matters because I know I’ve given myself the very best chance of putting things right.