Letting your mind wander is far from a waste of time. Dreaming helps us to bring out desires and projects, to open us to our interiority, but also to stimulate our brain in a different way.
That evening, lying on your bed, impossible to fall asleep, you are too restless. To relax, you visualize a scene that you particularly appreciate: you see yourself in this house that you would like to buy with your partner; or get that mutation that would allow you to go live in the sun. The next day, sitting at your desk, you are not at what you are doing. You can imagine the congratulations you receive after presenting this important project. Or that dinner with your ex, who begs you to give him a chance.
Both present and absent, you are simply daydreaming. But ask you what, and you will dodge. Because this very widespread activity is also considered to be the most private by those who devote themselves to it. In a recent survey conducted in the United States by the University of Minnesota, 80% of those polled said they would rather talk about an embarrassing experience than reveal their daydreams.
Our daydreams can be triggered by anything: a remark, the sight of an object, the reading of a word … A friend tells us about her argument with her spouse, and our mind begins to imagine how ours would have reacted in a similar situation.
I learn from my past experiences
Is this a way of wasting our time or rather an opening on the imagination, therefore on creativity? According to research in psychology, up to half of our mental activity is devoted to them. And for good reason. They have an essential function: that of helping us to achieve our objectives, to bring out our hidden hopes, fears and desires. “Paradoxical as it may sound, daydreaming allows us to organize ourselves,” explains Eric Klinger, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. These seemingly outlandish and confused thoughts regulate our life plans, analyze our past experiences and thus allow us to learn lessons for the future. ”
By visualizing positive outcomes (I just moved into my new home), we boost our self-confidence and improve our performance. And rehashing negative thoughts (such and such a story that went wrong) helps us to change our future behavior if a similar situation occurs again.
I keep control
These reveries, which arise unexpectedly and last an average of fourteen seconds, what do they tell? “They are specific to each person,” continues Eric Klinger. In general, they only stage desires or goals that the person already has in them, they do not provide new information. But the very presence of these thoughts is important: they are a valuable form of self-to-self communication. ”
During these times when we detach ourselves from the present moment, we are more receptive to ideas generated by our subconscious. Be careful, however, not to take them literally. Their true meaning is encrypted. It is more a question of testing leads than of becoming an actor in an elaborate project. During your reverie, for example, you imagine that, when you arrive at a party, you attract admiring glances on you. This does not mean that you want to spend the rest of your life partying, but reflects a desire to look after your appearance or your need for recognition from those around you.
Although the scenario of reveries varies from person to person, they have two common themes: the “victorious hero” and the “suffering martyr”. Testimonies have shown that men tend to identify with the hero and women with martyrdom, because they rehash their emotions more. In the scenario of the victorious hero, the person becomes remarkable. The plot can also confront the hero with one of his greatest fears, such as flying or climbing, before ending in victory. The martyr’s scenario is itself linked to the feeling of exclusion or incomprehension, the dreamer imagines situations in which others would start to regret their attitude and would finally recognize the exceptional being that he is. All of these situations reveal a need to stay in control or rise above the small frustrations of everyday life.
I strengthen my internal security
“We have our heads elsewhere when we live moments of stress, frustration or boredom, when reality upsets us, details Cliff Arnall, British coach and psychologist. So we take refuge in an idealized world. And when these dreams are recurring, it means that it would be good to change something in our life. Not necessarily a dramatic change, it can be just starting an activity that will energize us and give us the recognition we need.
Moreover, reverie can have a therapeutic role. Playing a scenario in our head can change our mood, relax us, entertain us… Plunging into dreams that bring security and happiness can help us endure a situation that we could not easily change in reality. Anna, 40, often daydreamed: “When I was a teenager, my parents argued all the time. My father was a violent alcoholic. Over time, I built this dream in which I would leave my home at the age of 16 and live in my own studio. I furnished it in detail: I had imagined the exact location of each take, the fabric of the curtains, the view from the window. Even though I was still a high school student, I certainly had the means to do it. It was a heartwarming alternate version of a home. I still imagine it sometimes when I feel stressed. ”
I calm my tensions
Daydreaming can be catchy and pleasurable, or loaded with negative feelings such as guilt, depression, or fear of failure. The majority of us experience both types of scenarios depending on our mood and what is going on in our life. “Imagining seemingly negative situations is not the same as worrying. It’s a way of going through events to see how things could be improved and to push your limits, ”notes Cliff Arnall. But if these thoughts are only negative, they do not allow you to manage your emotions in a serene way. Instead of venting anger, they will tend to let it build up. It is then a question of orienting them in a more relaxing direction, which will help ease their tensions.
I develop my creativity
If we all escape more or less in our imaginations, children and adolescents dream more than adults. For them, it is an essential way to test multiple identities and to explore in place about the different possibilities offered by life. With experience and maturity, our goals are refined, they are better defined, therefore more accessible, they need less to be reflected, tested, even if our future continues to occupy our thoughts.
Likewise, the themes evolve: as we age, we fantasize less about sex and love, or about heroic stories. We also have less hostile or aggressive thoughts like those in which we pour a series of insults or beatings on that person who assaulted us – moreover, violent fantasies would occupy less than 1% of our thoughts.
If some are more in the moon than others, that does not make them beings detached from reality. Research has shown that big dreamers are no less productive than more down to earth people. On the other hand, they would be more creative. Psychological researcher Jérôme L. Singer discovered that children with highly developed imaginations were also less aggressive, that they had better control of their emotions and behavior, and had more empathy for others. What about people who are not daydreaming? They are often more pragmatic in nature and are used to planning everything, which in no way hinders their success.
A gentle rebellion
In our society, which requires us to be hyperactive and efficient, practicing daydreaming is a form of gentle rebellion. It is a no opposed to the logic of profitability at all times of our life, an alternative to the binary proposition: work and recover. Letting go in the in-between of waking and sleeping opens the doors to interiority, allowing us to reclaim our time, our imagination and our desire. These moments suspended between heaven and earth, and from which are born chimeras, reminiscences, ideas too, make us feel more “full”, richer; they reconnect us to our uniqueness and our complexity. For the philosopher Gaston Bachelard, author of The Poetics of Reverie (PUF), the latter also has a spiritual dimension. “Cosmic reveries keep us away from project reveries. They place us in a world and not in a society. A kind of stability, of tranquility, belongs to cosmic reverie. »So many reasons to transform Shakespeare’s« dreaming maybe »into« dreaming surely »… Flavia Mazelin Salvi