Human beings are social creatures. Our very survival as a species depends on our ability to cooperate with each other. But even on an individual level, we need to establish relationships with other people to help us develop and grow emotionally. It is through our interactions with others that we form a sense of identity.
Unfortunately, this process becomes a bit tricky when maladaptive daydreaming is in the picture. When we have a condition like MD, it can make it more difficult for us to connect with others, and have a serious impact on our personal relationships.
How Maladaptive Daydreaming Isolates Us
Before we delve deep into this topic, it’s important to remember that what I’m describing does not apply to normal daydreaming. In a healthy setting, daydreaming can actually enhance our social skills. As I explained in one article about the benefits of daydreaming, regular fantasizing can give us practice for real world conversations. In this respect, it can be helpful for our social development.
Unfortunately, maladaptive daydreaming can have the opposite effect. Since we’re spending nearly all of our free time by ourselves, we neglect to spend time with other people. Some of us have even lost friends and partners because of our MD. But that isn’t even the worst of it. We get so comfortable with our imaginary worlds that we try to derive all our emotional needs from them. We train ourselves to become emotional islands.
On the surface, this independence might not seem like a such a bad thing. Not needing to rely on others emotionally? What could be wrong with that? The problem is, maladaptive daydreaming is not so great at fulfilling our needs, especially our emotional ones. Why?
Our daydreams aren’t real.
Of course, the thoughts and emotions that we experience while daydreaming are very real. What I mean is, our fantasies don’t exist outside the boundaries of our thoughts. But we are more than mental creatures. Because we’re physical beings with physical needs, we can’t stay in our daydreams forever. Eventually, they must come to an end. And when that happens, what then? We are left with a void that MD can’t fill.
Maladaptive daydreaming masks our relationship issues.
A lot of people turn to MD because it’s a lot easier than dealing with real people. And it isn’t surprising – real people can be complex, hard to predict, and even confusing at times. Sometimes they even come with drama that can make building relationships more complicated.
To make matters worse, if our social skills are already not up to par, socializing can feel like it’s more trouble than its worth. But the more we shy away, the more challenging this issue becomes. Maladaptive daydreaming only further enables our weaknesses. Which brings us to the third point:
We only create more problems for the future.
Once we get used to life in the imaginary world, reality, and everything in it, loses its luster. Everyday life falls short of what we can experience in our imagination. Because of this, we can very easily become disillusioned with real people when we compare them to daydream characters. This thinking can damage the relationships we already have – or stop us from building new ones that can add happiness to our lives.
But this is only part of the problem. With daydreaming, there is the safety net of never needing to experience feeling misunderstood or rejected – but real life has no such guarantees. When confronted with this reality, it’s a no-brainer to want to retreat into the refuge that is the fantasy world.
The Emotional Impact
Unfortunately we don’t always see the effects immediately – I sure know that I didn’t, back in childhood when my MD first started. At the time, I relied on it to get through the difficult situations that were happening in my home life. Because of the circumstances, I didn’t feel safe enough to talk about what I was feeling with anyone else. So I dealt with it the only way I knew how – by retreating to my own imagination.
Maladaptive daydreaming gave me the ability to create companionship out of my loneliness. When life became unbearable, I spent time with my daydream friends. When I needed a shoulder to cry on, they would be there for me to talk me through my problems.
For a long time, my MD helped me to survive. It gave me an outlet to deal with my emotional struggles. But now that I’m older and no longer in those same situations, I am able to see the problems MD has created for me. For one thing, I often find it difficult to be vulnerable around other people, simply because I’m so used to turning inward for emotional connection. I’ve spent the majority of my life building up walls that have kept me away from others – walls that I’m still working through to knock down.
When life gets tough, the temptation to rely on MD for comfort is still there. But if I don’t resist it, I won’t learn how to overcome these issues. So I keep pushing myself to be more open, to strengthen my connections with other people, even if it’s in small ways.
Don’t Fall Into the Trap
I know that there are maladaptive daydreamers out there who struggle with this exact issue. Many of you are going through difficulties, and I know how easy it is to turn to daydreaming to cope with your problems. It’s true that in the beginning, MD will seem harmless – in fact, at times it may even feel like a lifesaver. But the truth is, you’ll only be digging yourself deeper into the trap. The only way to heal from your pain is to face it, not to run away from it.
Daydreaming can be a wonderful way for us to build social skills, but it isn’t a suitable replacement for real life connection. That’s why it’s important not to let your MD go too far. As much as you can, be careful not to let it isolate you from other people.
As maladaptive daydreamers, we have to make sure that we’re building healthy relationships that will help keep us grounded in the real world. The more we do this, the easier it will be to stay balance – and keep our mental and emotional health in good shape.
Do you struggle to maintain relationships with maladaptive daydreaming? What strategies have you found helpful for overcoming this issue? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.