Friday, December 13, 2013

Keep your mitts off my daydreams!

Who is this upstart  What do they know anyway?

I came across this article on the site, The Art of Constructive Daydreaming.”  It’s written by Maria Popova, who calls herself a “cultural curator.”  She is founder and Editor in Chief of Brain Pickings.

Popova talks about the “science of fantasy” and “imaginative escapism,” calling them essential elements of a satisfying mental life.

Now don’t get me wrong!  I am in full possession of a thoroughly satisfying mental life, if I do say so myself.  And I do say so. 

Why on any given day, my internal flights of fancy make Walter Mitty look like Casper Milquetoast.  I achieve imaginary greatness with regularity.  Oh yes!  I soar above my mundane actual life and fly virtually alongside Wonder Woman.  She does fly, doesn’t she?  In my daydreams she does; and time after time I edge her out.

You could say I’m in the same daydreaming league as some of the greats:  Truly famous creators like T. S. Eliot who called his flights of fancy “idea incubation;” Alexander Graham Bell who dressed up the habit with the moniker “unconscious cerebration:” and Lewis Carroll who applied the pragmatic appellation “mental mastication.”

Whatever you want to call it, I can incubate, celebrate, er, cerebrate and chew with the best of them. 

So you can understand how totally annoyed I am to find this come-lately Popova who has to ruin it for the rest of us long-time practitioners of the delicate art of whiling away the time.  She just had to dredge up the research, wave it in our faces and act like she knows something about something. 

To wit:  She sites Yale psychologist Jerome L. Singer and his foundational investigation of daylight ponderings.  His findings, published in The Inner World of Daydreaming, described three core styles of daydreaming:
·        Positive Constructive Daydreaming – a process fairly free of psychological conflict, in which playful, vivid, wishful imagery drives creative thought;
·        Guilty-dysphoric Daydreaming – driven by a combination of ambitiousness, anguishing fantasies of heroism, failure, and aggression, and obsessive reliving of trauma, a mode particularly correlated with PTSD; and
·        Poor Attentional Control – typical of the anxious, the distractible, and those having difficulties concentrating.

Thanks a lot Ms. Popova!  Now I feel like I have to analyze my own daydreaming habits and therefore psychoanalyze myself!  Where’s the fun in that?  Wouldn’t you much rather doze in the sunshine and dream about pina coladas?

But OK, here goes – It’s pretty obvious – I am surely the Positive Constructive Daydreamer, right?  In my daydreams, I imagine myself to be playful and free of conflict, not the crabby misanthrope who’s on the edge of road rage.  My vivid imagery drives my powerful creativity.  Yeah that’s it.

OK…that feels a little forced. 

But even if I do feel guilty for everything that ever went wrong anywhere, surely I am not “dysphoric”?!!  Do my Wonder Woman daydreams reveal an “anguishing fantasy of heroism”?  Yikes! 

When is a cigar just a cigar?

Of course, for me, the real truth probably lies behind Door #3: Poor Attentional Control.  I guess I have to face it:  I’m distractible.  It’s no fun to concentrate!  Too many pretty, shiny objects in the vicinity of my keyboard.

I would much rather don my cape and combat crime.  As soon as I finish this column.

Carolyn will matriculate to 4th grade, but she must learn to pay attention, follow directions and stay on task.