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It’s Best to Think of Daydreaming as Theater of the Mind

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By Richard Cirulli

“And you can be sure that if you’re feeling right

A daydream will last long into the night

Tomorrow at breakfast you may prick up your ears

Or you may be daydreaming for a thousand years”

–John Sabastian

Writing is my profession though daydreaming is my full-time job.

Like most artists, and as an existentialist, I find my creativity in daydreaming, though one does not have to be an artist or an existentialist to daydream.

Daydreaming can be viewed as the theater of the mind since this is where we stage our life’s ambitions, fantasies and even create new realities. Anecdotally, mind-wandering has been associated with creativity for centuries. New research on daydreaming is offering validation that mind-wandering can make us happier and more creative.

“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wondering”

–Steven Wright

To master the art of daydreaming, one must avoid constrained thoughts where we ruminate over unpleasant events and topics. And, to focus on thoughts that are free-moving, meaning they skip from one pleasant topic to another. Positive mind-wandering has also been shown to enhance convergent thinking; that facilitates the kind of solution that just comes to you as a “a-ha” moment in a flash, not knowing how we got there.

I have personally experienced such moments. A solution in the flash that trumps methodical testing and elimination of options.

“Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Current research shows when our minds wandered in more fantastical ways, like playing out implausible or bizarre, funny scenarios, we tend to be more inspired and creative and it elevates our mood. This is especially true for writers since we think through stories as means to harness our creativity to find our a-ha moments. Artists use these moments to present works to our audiences in the hope they will experience a catharsis brought on by our work.

“Daydream, imagine, and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity”

–Deepak Chopra

As mentioned, one does not need to be an artist or existentialist to daydream. Taking an existential view to crafting our dreams may help us to better frame and navigate our life experience; especially when we consider all the possible things to think about, for many the negative possibilities outnumber the positive ones.

And, if we think of higher unobtainable goals, the higher the possibility of disappointment. If we create elusive realities in our daydreams, we find we are only living in our own nightmares. As Pascal said, humans may be as fragile as reeds, but they are thinking beings; in their consciousness they reflect the immensity of the universe.

Existentialism is the attempt to transmute our mere existence into essence, no easy task for sure. For life is full of adversity, and at times can be outright cruel. It’s this absurdity that we need to overcome life’s adversity, in some degree through creating positive daydreams by taking a more existential view of life.

Existentialism is concerned with ontology, the study of being, and makes no claims to be a comprehensive philosophy or way of life, but an endeavor to grasp the reality and adversity of life. It does not paint life with rose-colored glasses, and quoting the philosopher Sartre, we are the result of our choices. True, we must address life’s realities and adversities during our waking thoughts to address our material needs, but we also have the choice to daydream with free-moving positive thoughts to counter our negative impulses.

In closing, I’m an artist, existentialist and oftentimes a procrastinator – more often than I like to admit. So, as I was ruminating about my editor’s deadline, I took a break to do some positive mind-wandering, and low and behold, I had my a-ha moment. Just in time to meet my deadline.  

Be well. Be safe. Be happy. Be nice. Amor fati!

Dr. Richard Cirulli is a published author, playwright and retired professor. His body of works can be viewed at www.demitasseplayers.com. He looks forward to your comments, and can be reached at profcirulli@optonline.net.

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