Runnin' around
May 28, 2009 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I am curious about a childhood habit I had of daydreaming, or fantasizing, I suppose, while... running (for lack of a better term). Has anyone heard of this phenomenon?

I don't mean, I would go out for a run, and then daydreamed while I was running. I mean, it was a bit like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, i.e. I was daydreaming about myself in adventures, exciting scenarios, in T.V. shows I liked etc. Except, in order to have really intense daydreams I'd literally run back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, in my bedroom. Probably I could do it for anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. To me, the daydreams would be extremely "real" this way: I'd tune out the world around me and really see (and hear) my daydream world around me. I mean actually I would not see the room around me and would see what I was imagining.

I never had a problem with mixing up daydreams vs. reality though - there was the real world and then there were these stories I'd tell myself. On the other hand, I could, in a way, measure things very clearly, and when I was somewhat older, very consciously, about myself by what happened in the daydreams (what I aspired to, what I feared, etc.).

My question is: has anyone else experienced something like this? Is it documented at all? Or something similar?

I suppose the niggling question I have is that, since my daydream world was so intense and satisfying, in a way, is it possible that the imaginative "adventures" and risks I took might have replaced real-world "risks and adventures" that would have been of a similar emotional character (though obviously not realistically the same)?

(If there are questions by any chance they can be directed to
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I used to do this, walking along the perimeter of a ruin in the mountains where I grew up, for many hours. My father called this behavior peripatetic. I also had a bunch of invisible friends, shared with a real friend.
For what's it's worth, I've been diagnosed with a light psychosis at a later point in my life, although I've never accepted the diagnosis, and am very well today.
posted by dhoe at 10:07 AM on May 28, 2009

Wow. I used to do the exact same thing as a kid. Weird!
posted by millipede at 10:33 AM on May 28, 2009

Not running, but rocking: either lying in bed at night rocking my whole body back and forth, or with sitting crosslegged with headphones on and rocking back and forth. The daydream experience would be as you described: so intense as to actually 'see' (and hear and smell and feel) the fantasy, with complete oblivion to the real world. But I needed that constant, predictable motion to really get into it. Seems like kind of a weird thing to admit to now, although I do miss being able to daydream with that much clarity and reality.
posted by frobozz at 10:58 AM on May 28, 2009

Heh. I used to do this, too, while wandering around the neighborhood or in the woods. For added goofiness, I would occaionally burst into (improvised) songs as if I were in a musical. Sometimes I would imagine myself on a TV show (a la Big Blue Marble) and would play the role of the narrator discussing (in third person) the fascinating adventures of my life.
posted by scody at 11:32 AM on May 28, 2009

Huh. I tend to pace when I'm visualizing something, and visualize things when I'm pacing, but it doesn't sound like I get quite that intensity of experience. Maybe I need to pace faster.

(I actually never talk on the phone while standing still - it makes me very uncomfortable. Maybe the two are connected.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:55 AM on May 28, 2009

I used to do this while swimming (laps). Then we read Walter Mitty in high school. We discussed how he was a pathetic character. It took me ages to get over.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:56 PM on May 28, 2009

I think it's fairly common. did this every day on my way to and from school. I imagined I was alien to earth, pretending to be human. Then I'd 'encounter' the things around me from that perspective. It was wicked fun and very absorbing.

I did it at night too, I'd pretend I was being jetted off into space in a little capsule with a transparent lid so I could look at the stars during the journey. I'd tuck myself in and do the countdown and get all excited about wooshing off into the cosmos. It felt very real and soothed me off to sleep.

I think it's just your imagination developing. Kids are great at making the world their own.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2009

I'm guessing this is fairly common, although now that I think about it, I've never discussed it with anyone. I had a cast of 'regulars' in my daydreams: Lots of imaginary friends who repeatedly joined in the various fantasies with me. I recall actually acting out some of the fantasies in my bedroom... There was no distinction for me; it was reality. And no, I'm not delusional or psychotic.

I agree with freya_lamb that it's just your imagination developing. It does feel a bit depressing to think of it as that, because it was such a real and all-encompassing life to me.

To be completely honest, my daydreams now can sometimes be just as engaging... I've just learned to hide it, and I no longer talk to imaginary friends (out loud).
posted by Lullen at 5:02 PM on May 28, 2009

Wow, I do this all the time and thought I was weird for doing it. I had no clue other people did as well!

I like to go down into the basement, dim the lights, plug in my headphones and "skip" to the music while imagining various scenarios.

I've been trying to get over it, though. Spend the time I'd use pacing around to make some of those dreams come true.

restless_nomad, I am the exact same way on the phone. Your name is very telling. :P
posted by biochemist at 5:45 PM on May 28, 2009

I read somewhere that Charles Dickens would go for long, pre-dawn walks and imagine his stories in a similar fashion.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:32 PM on May 28, 2009

I still do this... I always thought it was a very idiosyncratic thing, but I suspect it's one of those 'weird' things that are actually very common. I wander about while on the phone, too, and gesticulate even though I know the person can't see me.
posted by lolichka at 4:01 AM on May 29, 2009

I still do this, pretty much daily. There are times when I find myself out of breath and that's when I realize I've been running (or walking very briskly) back and forth. If someone is below me in the basement they often call up to find out what's going on. If this is happening, then I am deep in the fantasy. It can be a good or bad fantasy. This also happens when I am hopeful and excited about some future happening. The more inside my brain I go, the more I show this physically with the frenzied, fast movement. I am seriously only aware when the physical exertion makes itself apparent.

I don't remember doing this as a child, but I assume I must. But as I said, it's a daily part of my life now. And until I read your question, I didn't know anyone else did it.
posted by Danila at 11:04 AM on May 29, 2009

« Older Do cold cuts cause cancer?   |   Booty call..where/ how to Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.