“Is maladaptive daydreaming bad? Do I really have to give it up, even if I like it and it makes me happy?”
If you’ve ever spent time in the MD community, you will have seen questions like the ones above. It’s not unusual for people who are new to MD to wonder if maladaptive daydreaming is bad, or simply misunderstood.
What is most interesting is that many people with MD don’t feel that they even need a cure – in fact, many are proud to be maladaptive daydreamers. What is behind these feelings? Is maladaptive daydreaming bad, or have we gotten it all wrong?
It’s all too easy to jump to the conclusion that these maladaptive daydreamers are living in denial. Addiction issues are not always obvious to the person suffering from them. That’s why the first response might be to think, Of course you don’t want to believe that maladaptive daydreaming is bad – you’re addicted. Alcoholics enjoy drinking too, but that doesn’t make their behavior OK.
However, the experiences that people have with maladaptive daydreaming are not as black and white as they seem. There are many facets and layers to MD that we need to examine before dismissing it as “just another addiction”.
Maladaptive daydreaming is a serious problem for many people – we know that. But if some maladaptive daydreamers feel differently, we should take a closer look. By the end of this article, we may just uncover the truth. We’ll also look at four critical questions we should ask ourselves when evaluating whether our daydreaming is truly making us happy.
What’s Behind The Question?
So what do people mean when they ask the question “Is maladaptive daydreaming bad?” Before we attempt to answer, let’s clear up a few things first.
Maladaptive daydreaming is more than just being a frequent daydreamer. You can still daydream far more than the average person and not have MD. The defining characteristic of MD is that your daydreaming is so excessive that it’s negatively impacting your life or causing you significant distress.
If this doesn’t apply to you, then you probably don’t have a daydreaming problem. If you’re not sure either way, then you can check out my maladaptive daydreaming test if you haven’t already. Also, the questions at the end of this article will also help you figure it out if you’re having trouble.
That being said, some people still cling tightly to their maladaptive daydreaming despite its problems. How can this be possible?
The simple answer is that for them, the benefits outweigh the costs. But what benefits could maladaptive daydreaming possibly have? What I suspect that people really enjoy about maladaptive daydreaming is the active fantasy life it brings them.
Most maladaptive daydreamers possess such a profound imagination that their daydream experiences are almost lifelike. With the power of their minds, they can enter a different time and place and become whomever they wish. Their adventures and relationships with other characters allow them to have deep experiences that are unavailable to them in real life.
No doubt that to the average person, the idea that daydreaming is a powerful experience sounds far-fetched, but for the serious daydreamer, it’s a fact. Fantasies can be so intense for maladaptive daydreamers that without them, their lives lack the same richness and color.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why people perceive maladaptive daydreaming in a positive light, and are hesitant to cure it. Many are afraid that recovering from MD means that they can no longer keep their dream worlds.
And now we get to the heart of the question. When people ask “Is maladaptive daydreaming bad?” they really want to know, “Is it wrong to have an intense fantasy life?” There is an answer to this question – and it’s one that many people don’t consider.
Does A Maladaptive Daydreaming Cure Mean No Daydreaming At All?
Most addiction recovery programs encourage abstinence, which means that to recover, one must completely avoid the addictive substance at all costs. Many experts believe that moderation is an unnecessary risk that leads a person back into their addictive behaviors.
I’ve noticed that this school of thought is not just common among the general public, but in the maladaptive daydreaming community as well. There’s a belief that a person should cure maladaptive daydreaming by avoiding any and all fantasizing. The idea is that we can eliminate the temptation to daydream through discipline.
There is no doubt that we need self-control to cure maladaptive daydreaming. But that doesn’t mean that we should take an all-or-nothing approach. Abstinence may not only be ineffective, but it can also counterproductive.
Unlike other addictions, MD is different simply because daydreaming is a natural part of our biology. As I explained in another article about the challenges of overcoming MD, we can’t fully suppress our urge to fantasize. If we don’t understand this, we can end up treating our daydreaming as an enemy that must be defeated. What’s worse, we will wrongly blame ourselves for not abstaining from it when it was never in our power to begin with.
The Dangers of Polarized Thinking
We live in a world that is abundant in black-and-white thinking. People, animals, objects, and ideas are organized into neat categories: good, bad, right, or wrong. There is very little room in between.
However, when we fall into the trap of polarized thinking, we risk closing our minds to other perspectives. We fail to think outside the box to consider new, innovative solutions, and ultimately, we limit our potential.
When we are honest with ourselves, these defined categorizations only exist within the realm of subjective human experience. Such distinctions do not exist in nature, where things can be helpful or harmful at the same time.
For instance, water may nourish and cleanse us, but too much of it can kill. Fire can strengthen a community or burn one down. For many things in life, the extent that something is good or bad varies from one situation to another.
When we think about daydreaming, we must be careful not to lean towards any extreme. Like water and fire, daydreaming is inherently neutral. It can either be our best friend or our worst enemy depending on the situation and how we use it.
This means that it isn’t wrong if you want to have an active fantasy life. Recovering from maladaptive daydreaming doesn’t mean that you have to stop fantasizing. All you need to do is to keep your daydreaming within healthy limits, and for that, you need discernment. It’s essential that you learn to recognize when your daydreaming is helpful, and when it is harmful.
Is Your Daydreaming Good Or Bad? How to Know the Difference
Unfortunately, it’s not always clear when our daydreaming is a positive or negative influence in our lives. Sometimes our daydreaming can make us feel good even when it is unhealthy.
That’s why I’ve come up with four important questions you need to ask yourself when reflecting on your dream life. These questions function like a litmus test that will show you when your daydreaming has gone too far. Then, if necessary, you can take the appropriate steps to address the problem areas so that they are no longer an issue in your life.
1. Is it serving me, or am I serving it?
Daydreaming is the window to our hearts. When we fantasize, we connect with our true heart’s desire. The content of our dreams can help us to define what it is we truly want in life. Then we can come up with goals and brainstorm ways to achieve them. Once we have a clear vision in mind, we can make changes in our lives that will increase our overall happiness.
On the other hand, our daydreams can also keep us from making progress. Sometimes we develop our lives in our imaginary world but remain stagnant in the real world. Instead of working to build up our own lives, we live life solely through our dream characters.
2. Does it give me control or does it take it away?
Who is the master: you, or your daydreaming? When we’re in control, we can set limits for ourselves. We decide when and for how long we’re going to daydream. We make sure that our fantasies do not conflict with our obligations.
But when daydreaming is in control, it comes first in our lives. It distracts us from our aspirations in life and limits our opportunities. We don’t devote energy to our other interests, or we miss time with the people we care about. Daydreaming becomes the god we worship and sacrifice everything for – even at the expense of our own well-being.
3. Is it a shortcut or a roadblock?
One of the great advantages of daydreaming is its ability to help us work through issues. Our fantasies gives us a safe space to process uncomfortable feelings or to examine problems that we need to work on. If we take the opportunity to heal emotional blockages, we can learn a lot about ourselves in the process.
On the other hand, we can easily use daydreaming as an unhealthy form of escapism. If we have character flaws, insecurities, trauma, or other issues, it’s tempting to ignore them by distracting ourselves with our fantasies. Unfortunately, this means that we fail to change the attitudes and behaviors that are harmful to us. When we choose to willfully blind ourselves to our problems, it leads us down a path that will only bring us more unhappiness.
4. Does it bring out the best in me, or the worse in me?
When used effectively, daydreaming can show us how to be kind to others. Through dream characters whose experiences are different from our own, we learn to see things from other people’s point of view. We gain patience and compassion toward another person’s shortcomings. We can take our unique insights and direct them outward where they can be a benefit to the people around us.
But if we invest too much into our inner world, we isolate ourselves from other people. Over time, we lose our empathy and struggle to relate to others. We become indifferent to someone else’s suffering, or harbor prejudices against people who are not like us. At the end of it all, we pass up the opportunity to have a positive impact in the world.
When all is said and done, is maladaptive daydreaming bad? While MD has its downsides, if you can minimize them and use the benefits of daydreaming to your advantage, you’ll have the best of both worlds. All that is required is honest self-reflection and a willingness to take action.
If you get into the habit of asking yourself the four questions mentioned in this article, you will find it much easier to make sure that daydreaming remains a positive force in your life.