DAYDREAMING (Fantasy)

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A waking fantasy or reverie; the free play of thought or imagination.Daydreaming is classed as a form of autistic thinking, since the individual’s imagination is controlled primarily by his inner desires and not by outer reality. It is a normal feature of childhood behavior and especially prevalent during adolescence. In most instances it tends to subside in early adulthood when the individual becomes absorbed in realistic activities or finds other ways of exercising his imagination. Some people, however, revert to this form of fantasy when they are frustrated or under stress. A few retreat from reality and appear to live in a dream world, and in these cases it is taken as a sign of underlying emotional disturbance.Two general kinds of daydreaming are frequently mentioned. In the “conquering hero” type, the child or adult overcomes all odds and destroys all opposition to reach a goal that gives him status and recognition. This type of fantasy frequently occurs after frustration or disappointment, providing an outlet for aggressive urges which these experiences arouse. In the “suffering hero” type, the individual imagines he is the target of undeserved abuse, the victim of a horrible affliction, or a martyr for all mankind. But in spite of the handicaps imposed upon him, he performs feats of daring and resourcefulness that gain him recognition in his own eyes if not in the eyes of others. This type of daydream is considered less healthy than the conquering hero type, since it expresses feelings of inferiority, revenge, self- pity, and a tendency to project blame on others. It is also less effective as a morale booster, and tends to build up antisocial attitudes that intensify existing tendencies to poor adjustment. Systematic studies indicate that these two types do not account for all daydreams, nor do they express all the motivations involved in fantasy. Jersild et al. (1933), found that only about 19 per cent of children between five and twelve reported daydreams of self- glorification; more often their fantasies dealt with amusements, play, or specific objects which they desired. Many older children also used daydreaming as a “rehearsal for life”—that is, they pictured themselves in realistic occupations as opposed to romanticized situations. The daydreams of adolescents, as might be expected, often focused on social relationships, love, and sexual activities. In studies of undergraduates (average age twenty-one) and graduate students (average age twenty-eight) carried out by Shaffer and Shoben (1956), all but 3 per cent reported recent daydreams. Among the most frequent themes were vocational success, money or possessions, and sex conquests; somewhat less frequent were fantasies about mental feats, worries, and physical attractiveness (twice as many women as men had this type of daydream). The majority reported that at one time they had daydreams of grandeur, homage, martyrdom, display, and physical feats (men more than women), but their recent daydreams rarely centered around these themes. Daydreaming provides the child, and the adult, with an undemanding form of activity which yields considerable ego satisfaction. In moderate amounts it is considered a healthy stimulant for imagination and a healthy outlet for emotion. As Peller (1959) has pointed out, a well-adjusted child usually daydreams only when he cannot engage in other forms of play, but a poorly adjusted child substitutes daydreaming for constructive play or activities with other children. If the daydreaming is carried to excess, it may become an unhealthy form of escape, and in some cases fantasy may begin to take precedence over the world of reality. But this will not occur if the child receives a reasonable amount of love and attention and has an opportunity to engage in activities that develop his skills and give him personal satisfaction. See AUTISM, DEREISTIC THINKING, IMAGINARY COMPANION.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "DAYDREAMING (Fantasy)," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/daydreaming-fantasy/ (accessed January 21, 2022).

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