When I maladaptively daydream, I kick ass.

“Maladaptive daydreaming has been the subject of a series of previous studies. Somer and colleagues found that maladaptive daydreaming is characterized by extensive daydreaming that occupies many hours per day, causes significant subjective distress and interferes with function, and is accompanied by extensive comorbidity. It can be differentiated from normal daydreaming with both self‐report measures and a structured interview that incorporates proposed diagnostic criteria for the disorder. The daydreaming [sic] involves a complex inner world with many characters and elaborate plots. The daydreaming has an addictive or compulsive aspect to it, but the person realizes that it is an internal fantasy world and does not confuse the fantasy with external reality.” [i]

When I was about ten years old, I stepped into a mud wasp nest and froze. Unfortunately, the wasps did not. They crawled all over me, stinging me with what felt like gleeful abandon, but I couldn’t move. All I could think about was my mom telling me to stand still on those occasions when a bee was buzzing about. Children aren’t the best at understanding when similar situations require a different response.

The experience left me allergic to wasp venom and likely to bolt in terror when something yellow and black flew by.

I no longer panic when I see creatures that sting, but PTSD still has a hold. [ii] Like most, when I feel vulnerable, defenceless, or under attack, my body prepares for fight or flight. But because I don’t resort to fisticuffs very often, my response mostly involves hitting the road.

(Though as I watch today’s crop of toadying and incompetent politicians, I consider making a philosophical and boxing-based revision to my domestic policy.) [iii]

When I’m triggered and PTSD rises, I leave. Not my body (astral projection would be neat), just my brain. You can’t always tell. I can look like I’m here when I’m not. I interact, but inside, I’ve drifted into a daydream I can control. I like that my inside world does what I want.

Fleeing from the things I feel I can’t deal with turns me into a world builder: bad news for those who’ve “done me wrong.” Things don’t go well for them on my version of Walton Mountain.

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

Some say revenge is a dish best served cold: I do better by it when it’s imaginary. I’m not bound by laws or the rules of physics in my mind. In the worlds I create, I eloquently (and possibly viciously) denounce those who deserve it. The ones who survive judgement obsequiously repent to no avail. I move on with my life and leave them behind. The life I build for myself in my brain is a good one.

You should see my clothes. [iv]

“In our view, the relationship between maladaptive daydreaming and other symptom clusters and disorders is complex and multi‐directional. For example, severe maladaptive daydreaming could provide an escape from anxiety and depression, but could also cause or exacerbate depression, which would then in turn increase the motivation to daydream more frequently. In our view, maladaptive daydreaming can be viewed as fundamentally a strategy for disconnecting or dissociating from distressing internal and external circumstances. Thus, one could view it as a dissociative coping strategy that can operate with or without a diagnosable dissociative disorder…it is clear to us clinically that there are cases of dissociative identity disorder with no elements of maladaptive daydreaming, [sic] and vice versa. Nevertheless, the two disorders co‐occur with each other and maladaptive daydreaming is strongly linked to dissociation in populations with high levels of trauma and dissociation…”

I don’t only disappear into maladaptive revenge daydreams. The dissociations span a wide range of topics with a cast that shifts according to my whim. All I need is the desire for an elsewhere to be. Sometimes, elsewhere is a good place to be.

It’s not that I can’t handle my current reality. It’s awful, stressful, and difficult, but I’ll probably get through it. Dissociation, however, is more than a response to fear. I also go there when I anticipate pain.

Better worlds appeal when the realities of life look ready to break the heart.

Dad, me, and mom at grandma’s house (1969).
I loved that little boat (background).

[i] Maladaptive Daydreaming, Dissociation, and the Dissociative Disorders. Colin A. Ross, M.D., Jane Ridgway, M.A., Nevita George, B.S. (Psych Res Clin Practice) 2020. https://prcp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.prcp.20190050

[ii] Different sources.

[iii] I’ve been in a couple of fights. When I was eleven, I punched a girl who was bullying a group of six and seven-year-old students at school. I did try talking first. She got blood on my favourite t-shirt: it was very annoying. When I was seventeen, also at school, two girls shoved me into a glass display case, breaking it and my temper. I got in a shot to the jaw before the teachers made it over.

[iv] A joke. I mostly have no clothes. That is, I don’t focus on that level of design minutiae. Unless I do.

Header credit: Michelle Yeoh, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” (film, 2000).

15 thoughts on “When I maladaptively daydream, I kick ass.

  1. That’s why when you share some creative writing with us it’s golden! hint hint

    The standing still tip is BS. In biology class, I had the teacher telling me not to move as a wasp (or bee can’t remember it was all the same to me back then) tried to attack me. As a pupil who respected and listened to my teachers, I obeyed. And promptly got stung. Yea, lesson learned – do NOT sit still when a flying object is trying to attack.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Right? In hindsight, your advice makes sooo much more sense.

      I’ve been thinking about trying something creative. The stress of life has built a wall and I feel a bit trapped. Though I have had some thoughts about earrings…

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Writing. I’ve recently started thinking that I want a pair of gold hoops. I understand that this is entering into what could prove to be a fruitless, mythic quest 😉 That got me thinking…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You and me too… 💗

    I also dissociate regularly as a part of escaping in a sense or being where I can cope or deal with things better.

    I could spend hours there…

    “You should see my clothes” 😆😁 love it…

    Have you seen the movie: “Suckerpunch”… ? Yeah I’m like baby doll… kicking ass…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d forgotten about “Suckerpunch.” I loved that movie, though it broke my heart a bit.

      It’s so easy to spend hours in the imaginary world. I would definitely never let myself do that cool thing they do in “Inception.”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Maladaptive daydreaming is a coping strategy that can become addictive and hard to break free from. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Addictions can be hard to overcome, because sometimes people feel empty without them (but this is the avenue that addictions use to worsen over time). We must break free from all addictions. One of the first places to begin, is to ask ourselves: When did this addiction start? Is there an underlying cause? We ask questions such as this to find out what the trigger for the addiction is. For example, if a person was bullied in the past, and they are drinking to cope with the feeling of unworthiness that the experience brought, they are better off dealing with those feelings (since it is the root cause). In this instance, not liking the things that happen in reality is the root cause, so changing one’s reality is probably the solution for maladaptive daydreaming. Secondly, it helps to look for people who have overcome the condition that one is dealing with, and checking to see how they managed to overcome it. Tips and strategies from such people usually prove useful. Last, but most important, it is crucial to commit the healing process to God. God is our creator, and he is able to help us.

    The Bible says in Hebrews 2:18 (about Jesus)
    “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted”.

    God says in Isaiah 41:10
    “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.

    If anyone reading is interested in building a relationship with God, I have a post on that here: https://christcenteredruminations.wordpress.com/2018/08/29/how-to-build-a-relationship-with-god/    

    There is much more to know about God. I post frequently on my blog about topics related to God. You are welcome to follow my blog to keep up with my content. See my blog here: https://christcenteredruminations.wordpress.com/   

    I hope this comment helps.

    All the best. May God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We participated in this study. We were determined to be a dissociator who didn’t have the daydream world. We have dissociative delusions but not whatever the maladaptive daydream means. We don’t really understand the distinction but were pleased to contribute to dr. Ross’s research

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How interesting and cool. It’s strange to see ourselves show up this way, I think. It makes me feel a little famous when it happens.
      I often don’t understand the distinctions doctors make between this thing and that. Sometimes I think it’s because they can’t experience our inside worlds. All they can offer is a best guess, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

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