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Stuck in my head

_Gigi_
Community Member

Hi, wondering if anyone else has this problem as well? I've noticed that I've been more and more stuck in my head as my anxiety grows worse. I've always been a daydreamer, but it didn't used to be like this. I now constantly daydream about anything aside from reality and I can't really control it anymore. Instead of making friends, reaching out to family, learning new things, or pursuing any goals, I just imagine I do. The majority of my daydreaming isn't about myself though, because sometimes it makes me upset to even think about anything close to my real life. Is it normal to daydream this much? Is it related to my anxiety as I suspect, or a totally separate issue altogether? I'm feeling a bit lost and any advice would be appreciated

8 Replies 8

therising
Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi _Gigi_

 

Personally, I don't think daydreaming's a problem until it becomes one. Sometimes it can become a significant problem in life. Myself, I'm a gal who's always been a bit of a daydreamer. My 18yo son is a major daydreamer, which wasn't that much of an issue 'til years 11 and 12 at school. It was a huge challenge for him to stay focused and learn, which is why the last 2 years at school were so unbelievably hard for him. In my opinion, serious levels of daydreaming can create great disorder in the lives of some folk.

 

Constructive daydreaming is definitely skillful. Some of the skills

  • How to consciously take yourself in and out of daydreaming at will. Incredibly hard to do at times and takes a heck of a lot of practice
  • How to see in a daydream only what you need to see or want to see
  • How to shift focus in a daydream from worse case scenario to best case scenario. Worst case scenario definitely creates anxiety
  • How to recognise triggers for daydreaming
  • How to keep a foot in 2 places at once, in the imagination and in reality

and the list goes on.

 

You could see daydreaming as being a form of meditation. As I said to my son, 'People actually pay for guided meditation sessions. Some also pay to learn how to meditate in such a way. You can do this naturally. You don't pay for a guide and you don't pay to learn how to do it. While it can take some people a while to get into meditating on green fields, a blue sky etc etc, you are there in the blink of an eye. You have a great natural ability. The only problem is you haven't learned how to master it'.

 

I've produced a few meditations/daydreams for myself that come to serve me well. Could be something for you to consider (producing your own version of what works). I'll whittle this one down to be brief. In my mind, I imagine a small gate that takes me further into my imagination. After opening the gateway, I travel along a path through a forest 'til I come to a cabin. In that cabin is a sage with long white hair and long white beard. He asks me 'What brings you here?' and I tell him the challenge I'm struggling with. Then he shows or tells me what the problem is that I face and how I can manage it. I thank him and return the way I came. I close the gate before coming back to reality with a solution to my problem. I've omitted all the finer details here like the sound of the path beneath my feet, the sounds in the forest, the warmth of the fire place I can feel within the cabin etc. Mine is a vivid imagination that involves most of the senses. I go into my imagination to find the solutions to my problems/challenges. Intention is part of it. If I intended on going to the cabin to see the worst case scenario, that's exactly what I'd find. If intend on seeing solutions then that's what I'll find. Do you think practicing setting your intention might help in some cases?

 

Some triggers for daydreaming: A peaceful setting, a boring situation, someone simply saying 'Imagine...', time of day, a poor night's sleep, lack of energy and focus, people who trigger our imagination and on it goes. Loads of triggers for us gifted natural born daydreamers to become conscious of and manage. Many gifts can feel like a curse until they're mastered. In my imagination, I see you becoming a master while also being truly stunned by all the things you're capable of doing with and through your own imagination. 🙂

Hi Gigi and therising,

 

Wow. What a fabulous topic. Thank you for raising it. I've only recently started thinking of my daydreaming as being connected to my mental health.  It seems the literature and research is only just catching on to it as well. It's something I've been Googling recently.  I've linked to a newpaper article which gives a great summary of the thinking. It suggests that up to 1 in 40 people have immersive daydreaming that can become what is beginning to be called maladaptive daydreaming.  I'd never heard of any of this stuff until very recently and my day-dreaming is my shameful secret that I've never spoken to anyone about.  Turns out I'm not alone and one of many. 

 

Gigi, I don't know if my day-dreaming has been worse during periods of high Anxiety. I have been an immersive daydreamer since my teens.  Unlike most people, I've managed to live two entire lives - my real one and the life of my alter-ego inside my head.  Like you, I don't day-dream about anything related to my actual life - it's not me in my day-dreams but me as another person with another name and another history doing all the things I've wished I could do.  I've always struggled with processing emotions and replaying certain scenes in the life of my daydream persona has allowed me to feel anger, rage, triumph and all the really strong emotions that I've never been able to explore in the real world - while also providing all the boring bits of life with adventure stories!  I've always loved day-dreaming. It mostly hasn't interfered with the real world except that, looking back, I realise I used to go to bed an hour earlier than I needed to just so I could slip into another world.  Otherwise, it was generally when I was doing chores or repetitive activities, in my mind my alter-ego would be having adventures worthy of James Bond.

 

Looking back with hindsight, and after a couple of Google sessions, I am beginning to realise that the day-dreaming may have felt like it was helping me feel/explore negative emotions but was also feeding them and probably prolonging or worsening my anxiety and depression at times. I know that many times I would have to consciously pull myself out of a particular scene in my head because, although I hadn't started the day upset or anxious, after intentionally putting myself in a day-dream full of characters playing out intense dramas, I'd end up truly depressed or teary.

 

My day-dreaming stopped altogether about two years ago. I have no idea why. Perhaps because I started really working with psychologists on mindfulness and Acceptance Commitment Therapy to tackle my Anxiety in helpful ways? Or maybe I just outgrew my alter-ego after several decades and the story had nowhere else to go? I don't know. What I do know is that, if I knew then what I know now, I'd definitely be taking up therising's advice and looking to limit day-dreaming and/or channel it into helpful forms instead of using it to avoid the real world.  I know my partner always tells me I never remember much about our holidays or significant events etc. and that was probably because I was off somewhere else in my head.

 

Therising, thank you. I think your advice is magnificent.  I keep reading that one of the early intervention strategies for rising anxiety is to picture oneself in a safe, calm space but it had never occurred to me that I could make it an interactive episode inside my head rather than just a picture.  Wow. How much more effective to use these powers of world-building to take myself for a walk by that stream instead of just looking at it.  I shall immediately attempt to start using my powers for good! Thanks.

I too, would be really interested to hear from other day-dreamers.

Hi therising and HappySheep, 

Thank you both so much for your lovely responses. You both offer up some excellent ideas that have given me a lot to think about. I can very much relate to struggling to process emotions, and I think it may be one of the main things that triggers my daydreaming. I'm too ashamed and afraid to express my emotions, but when I daydream it can be so freeing to let myself feel. My mind is a world without consequence for my vulnerabilities; a world where problems always have resolution. Life, on the other hand, is unpredictable and doesn't always have a happy ending.

 

Occasionally I make a conscious effort to pull myself out of my daydreaming because I don't want to miss out on things, but it can be difficult to stay in the moment and disheartening when I fail. therising, I'll definitely try out your advice to go in with intention though, as it sounds very promising and there are many challenges in my life that I've been procrastinating on finding a viable solution for. The description of your cabin in the forest sounds beautiful and I'd love for my mind to generate a haven like that. I can almost see the first glimpses of mine now- a long twilight beach of pebbles and rippling purple water. The soft swoosh of gentle waves kissing a rocky shore. I've never properly tried meditation before, so I look forward to giving it a go.

 

Sometimes I try to draw whatever it is my mind has conjured up, so even though I'm daydreaming I'm still somewhat present in the moment. Recently it's been difficult to muster the energy to do much of anything, but I think I'll try to pick the pen back up and see if that helps as well.

 

Again, thank you both heaps for your responses. They've been very encouraging for me

Joe_Sad
Community Member

Wassup GiGi,

You should get off ur phone lol

Hope u feel better soon,

Joe 

Hi _Gigi_ and Happy Sheep

 

It's definitely an amazing topic, hey. And, yes, the amount of info out there is growing. Yay, I say, as there is just so much potential with daydreaming and the imagination. A bit of a rabbit hole topic too, from how the brain appears and behaves in a state of daydreaming (through imaging technology/scans) all the way through to the practical side, certain psychic aspects, mental health issues and so much more, the rabbit hole's extensive.

 

Two of the greatest minds in history were what you could call daydreamers. Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein both relied on their imagination to show them what they needed to see. While  working examples of energy would come to mind for Einstein through his imagination, what he saw in there helped better define some of his theories. While inventions would come to mind for Tesla, in his imagination he could take a mechanism apart, study its individual pieces, gradually put it all back together and then go about bringing it all into reality. Whether it be some of history's great composers of classical music, authors of books or others with great talent, some have given full credit to whatever it is that serves them through their imagination, through daydreaming, saying in one way or another 'I simply take dictation in regard to what I see/hear. Such inventions are not mine, they come to me'.

 

So, I suppose we could ask 'How do we do daydreaming really well? How can we do it expertly in brilliant and liberating ways that are going to serve us?'. Maybe looking into and/or taking tips from those in history who've managed it well is somewhat of a start. While Tesla, for example, was a brilliant and highly productive daydreamer, his focus and drive in the real world was just as brilliant and productive. I think part of it's about finding balance between the 2 worlds while figuring out how to manage them interactively. 🙂❤️

therising, I think you've hit the key with getting the balance right between worlds.  Often in the modern world we leave no time for just being alone inside your head.  I often wonder if we would have had the great philosophers and poets if they'd existed in a time of 24/7 emails and smartphones.  I picture Isaac Newton having a few hours to kill and sitting under his apple tree pondering why whatever he threw in the air fell back down to ground....

HI HappySheep

 

You are wonderful (full of wonder), there's no denying it. Did I mention natural daydreamers are typically wonderful people. Add 'wonder' to the list of triggers. All someone has to say to me is 'Do you ever wonder...' and BAMM, I'm off, waiting for the last part of that question so that I can begin to see what I'm going to be wondering about. I wonder whether you find that when people are triggering you to imagine what they're talking about, it's hard to look them in the eye when they're speaking. I used to always think it was a shyness thing until I realised I can't look someone in the eye (it's a distraction) while I'm in my imagination seeing what they're telling me. Hope that makes sense. I've heard it said before that with vision typically being our dominant sense, this is the main reason we're led to close our eyes in meditation. It's so we're not visually distracted by what we're meant to be meditating on (seeing in our mind). Btw, now you've got me wondering about what Newton was imagining 😅. You do inspire a sense of wonder.

Therising, I do love the way you think. You've given me something else to ponder.

 

I too struggle to look people in the eye while conversing. I'm not particularly shy in that respect so I'd always attributed it to being long-sighted. When having an intense conversation, people are usually quite close ... Now, I need to conduct some research and measure what sort of conversation we're having, as well as how close we're sitting, when I catch my eyes sliding away from someone's face!