Help me stop daydreaming.
July 7, 2008 10:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm constantly daydreaming about the same two scenarios. How can I stop daydreaming, or change what I dream about?

As long as I can remember, I've been a daydreamer. Probably 90% of my daydreaming time involves just 2 or 3 scenarios (they change every few months but the themes are the same). Sometimes the scenarios are all I can think about.

The first one is basically a romantic scenario, which I know is fairly normal. It is a relatively unlikely scenario, though, and one that I don't think my conscious mind would actually like. The second one is much more disturbing. It starts with a telephone call telling me that my parents are dead in a car crash and goes from there. Basically I spend hours and hours thinking about the aftermath of my parents' death.

My parents abused me when I was younger, so it's not unreasonable (I think) that part of me wishes them dead. But I still have a shaky relationship with them that will not be disappearing any time soon. Besides, it's just creepy and depressing to think about their funeral all the time.

Anyways, I'd like to stop thinking about this stuff so much. For one, it's really boring replaying the same intricate scenario over and over in my head, adding a detail here or there each time. It distracts me from my life. I care more about getting rid of the morbid death dream than the unrealistic romantic dream, but it would be nice to daydream less (or with more variety), period.

Obviously I've got issues (depression, ptsd, anxiety..), and I've been on and off meds/therapy for a while, and will start again in the fall when it's available. But I would specifically like suggestions about what I can do myself to lessen the daydreaming or direct it in a more positive manner. Thank you!
posted by acidic to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
>>My parents abused me when I was younger, so it's not unreasonable (I think) that part of me wishes them dead. But I still have a shaky relationship with them that will not be disappearing any time soon.

Why is is not disappearing any time soon? Are you still close with them? Are they providing you material support? Either of these could explain why they're still on your mind, and why it's important for you to resolve any outstanding issues you have with them.

Nothing says daydreaming like formative plans. Sounds to me like you're plotting more distance from them. Which could be great. I encourage you to give those thoughts more conscious time.

I don't have as much to say about the romantic fantasy because it's less specific. Let's face it, no matter what you're up against, a new and perfect love is a nice thought.
posted by scarabic at 11:03 PM on July 7, 2008

I'm a daydreamer, too. I used to be more than I am now. I even used to have very similar morbid images going on in my head about my own parents! I once read a book that described this sort of thing in relation to obsessive compulsive disorder. I can't remember the book title, unfortunately, but I've been diagnosed with mild OCD... just out of curiosity, have you? If so, maybe there's a connection. If not, then, eh... forget I said it.

Anyway, two things helped me with that. 1) When the negative daydreams would pop up in my head, I'd just switch the brain channel to the more pleasant one. Obvious and simple, but some practice will help. 2) Doing something positive. I've found that when I'm happier, I fade off into la-la land less in general. So, if something's got you down, try to work that out. It might make all the difference.
posted by katillathehun at 11:15 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I daydream about the things that I want (being badass) and the things I'm scared of (people dying). That's normal. I've also had situational daydreams, things like being able to fly away when I'm under a lot of stress. See if you can change your relationship with your parents to your benefit in anyway.
posted by stoneegg21 at 11:18 PM on July 7, 2008

Daydreaming about something so morbid as an immediate family member's death can be a coping mechanism, too. I often find myself picturing me in different scenarios and receiving news about my parent's/s' death. I was disgusted by this for a while- I felt like it might have been some 'woe is me, how can my life be worse, how can I get sympathy' sort of daydreaming that was taking place. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was trying to prepare myself, as best I could, for when the event actually comes to be (they are certainly getting up there in age).

It sounds to me like there are a lot of unresolved issues between your parents and you. As it stands, there is still a slim possibility of those becoming resolved. However, once they pass, there's not turning back. You described your relationship as shaky- to me, that sounds like there's still ground there for you to stand on, and maybe you want to make it more of a platform. Knowing that that's there but then losing it would certainly devastate me.

Not all daydreaming has to be about what you want to see happen. It can happen involuntarily, and may be a sign that the time to come to terms with your past is now.
posted by self at 11:26 PM on July 7, 2008

Wear a rubber band on one wrist. When the parental daydream comes up, snap it and move on.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:04 AM on July 8, 2008

I daydream a lot as well, and it really gets me down (feeling really burnt out) when I do it too much. What works for me, to stop thinking about my daydreams, is to just start doing stuff (usually related to whatever I was daydreaming about). For a while I daydreamed about hitchhiking a lot, and then I did it! and I stopped daydreaming about it.

Another thing that works for thinking too much in general: keep a list of things your thinking about, and whenever you find yourself thinking about one thing too much that you've already written down you can say to yourself: "okay, I've already written that down I don't need to think about it right now."

Also, here's the best book I've read about someone truly coming to terms with their abuse (fyi: its a memoir, not self-help).
posted by symbollocks at 6:30 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's something you don't want to think about, probably a minor situation that makes you feel in some abstract way like you did back then. When you feel the daydream coming on, just try to focus on what might be bothering you. Repeat as necessary.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2008

I daydream a LOT, and I don't seem to ever really manage to decrease the daydreaming, but I have learned that they my daydreams have a lot to tell me. I find the form my daydreams is very revealing of what I really want and how I want to feel.

I don't daydream about my parents dying because they were good parents, and their deaths will not be any kind of relief to me as it might be to you. I do daydream about running into people with whom I have unfinished business and getting to resolve things. I daydream about my past and imagine going back to redo, rearrange and improve things. And I daydream about what I want to do and have happen to me in future.

So, whenever I can, I make my daydreams real. When I imagined myself a teenager again, one of the things I would "do" was take art in high school. So, in my twenties I took the part-time Visual Arts Foundation Certificate program at George Brown College in Toronto. I enjoyed it a lot, learned a great deal, did very well, and can put it on my resumé — it was so much better than having taken art in high school! I still imagine myself going back in time but I don't think as much about how I would take art. I then decided to write a novel about a teenager who is the kind of kid I wished I'd been. I get an excuse to daydream about her and what her life is like, because my daydreaming serves a purpose. There are other like examples of how I mine these daydreams for ideas of current goals, but you probably get the idea. Still daydreaming about going back in time, but look at what I've gotten out of it.

I advise that you try something similar. No, don't go after your parents with an axe, Lizzie-Borden-style. But do think about how you feel and what you do in your daydreams once you get that fateful phone call, and figure out ways to get those feelings and do those things (or a creative version of those things) in the here and now. Maybe you see your parents' deaths as freeing you up to do certain things because you no longer have to face their disapproval. So why not do those things anyway? Maybe you you see their death as a release from certain feelings. So perhaps this means you need therapy or some therapeutic means of getting past those feelings. If you're into the arts at all maybe you could do some sort of art project (paint a series of paintings, write music or a poem or a book) as a way of exploring and working through those feelings at a distance. Be creative, and explore whatever avenues suggest themselves.

You may not be able to do that. I certainly have daydreams I've never managed to parlay into any sort of satisfactory real life experience. Some of them frustrate me no end for that reason. But I guess even then they serve a purpose. At bottom, they are a way to feel what I want and need to feel. And I accept that given the way my mind works, the only way for me to stop dreaming them is to either outgrow that need, or to fulfil it in real life.
posted by orange swan at 11:03 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

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