Most people daydream, I think. It is practically essential. It seems to belong right alongside functional cognition, because it too is functional.
In snippets, during momentary lapses of interesting action, it serves the very essential function of keeping us sane and optimistic. If there were nothing to hypothesize or suppose about when things in our immediate proximity got bland, the endless march on would be drear and likely short.
It can be overused, though. When this practice becomes applied to situations in which action is not lacking, it makes for unfortunate situations. There are varying degrees, of course, as with anything. On the minimal end of the spectrum excessive daydreaming, or “spacing out,” might cause you to get behind in school. On the more severe end of the spectrum, it might cause you to miss out on the worthwhile action in front of your eyes. Sometimes, no, most of the time, there’s no need to turn your eyes inward.
I am one of those people who has put the bulk of their creative capacities toward daydreaming. It’s kept me entertained, but it’s also made me miserable, and in the misery and distraction it’s caused I’ve missed out on a lot. Daydreaming is like a placebo that is good enough to keep you from seeking the real medicine but not so good that your need is eliminated. It is like starvation that is met with scraps of food. You’re reminded of the goodness you’re lacking and made hungry again, still too deprived to hunt for better things yourself. In short, it’s debilitating.
I would not write about this if I felt it weren’t a widespread affliction. It isn’t talked about, save for on Instagram meme pages, and in rare conversations with close friends, and if not for these accounts I would doubt its regularity completely.
The reason I think we daydream is because something is lacking in our lives and we have enough consciousness to be aware of what it is, and enough creativity to configure it in our imaginations. Night-time dreaming does not satisfy the same need because its manifestations are subconscious, and we have little to no control over what we experience. Freud was keen on analyzing dreams, but daydreams are equally worthy subjects. It can be particularly helpful to be critical of where you find yourself drifting off to during the day because this is your self-soothing.
The more areas of life that you extend the practice to the worse your actual life circumstances will get. Thus, the more you will want to escape by daydreaming, and the more you will. Many of life’s troubles are circuitous like this.
At some point it is no longer a sustainable practice, and so it must end. When you choose to end it, replace it with what best you can so you aren’t fixed to fall down the same hole again.