To Daydream or Not to Daydream — See What UH Researcher Has To Say About That Question

Dr. Eli Somer, a psychotherapist and professor from the school of Social Work at the University of Haifa, is shedding new light on daydreaming.

While it is certainly true that daydreaming is a natural activity humans perform, and in fact may be beneficial, it can also be harmful.  Dr. Eli Somer, a psychotherapist and professor from the school of Social Work at the University of Haifa, as a result of his research on daydreaming, has coined the term ‘Maladaptive Daydreaming’.

According to Somer, “Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning”.  People with this mental disorder, although it has yet to be officially recognized as a disorder, engage in fantasizing on a frequent basis.  In more severe cases, the fantasizing behavior actually becomes an addiction, so that people who suffer from MD cannot control when or how often fantasizing occurs..

Many psychologists, including the famous Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, believe that daydreaming is an integral, perhaps even necessary, part of being human.  As Freud wrote in a 1907 paper, “Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, rearranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him”.

In fact, daydreaming is such an important part of our lives that Professor Eric Klinger, a University of Minnesota psychologist who studied daydreaming extensively, has estimated that daydreaming comprises half of our thoughts in any given day.

But if daydreaming is such a beneficial activity, why is it such a debilitating occurrence in the lives of some people?

Dr. Somer’s research has added new light into the picture.  He has found that daydreaming serves not only helps people cope with adverse situations, such as, for example, taking one’s mind off of an impending harm or stress, but also serves as an outlet for one’s creative talents.  In his study, Somer has found that many people who suffer from MD experienced a traumatic event during childhood.  He also found that those same individuals possessed a talent for creativity even before the trauma occurred.

The research, which has been publicized in Huffington Post and The Atlantic, suggests that MD is a more complex confluence of factors than previously believed.  The research also opens up the door for further research on MD – a condition which has received almost zero attention by researchers up to now – and creates hope for victims of MD that a respite may soon be discovered.

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