As a kid, I used to create complex daydreams all the time – in vivid detail. I would dream about my future, where I lived, even what I’d be wearing and the fabulous 80’s hairstyles I’d take with me into my imagined future. 🤫
Back then, this make-believe world I created was soothing – it helped me pass the time when I was bored or lonely. Imagination and make-believe in children is a wonderful outlet of creativity, and psychologists believe that some of those early games of pretend give clues to long-term interests, vocations, and self-expression. They’re worth paying attention to.
But when daydreaming gets extreme, it can take the place of cultivating real-life connections and purposeful work. It can be a form of numbing that keeps you focused on what might be instead of facing the vulnerability of what isn’t.
Here are some signs that your propensity to fantasize or daydream might be keeping you from facing realities that need your attention:
- You create full-blown relationships in your mind out of minor interactions – such as a date or a conversation.
- Instead of investing in the relationship you have, you dream about the relationship you want.
- You find yourself “what-iffing” frequently – imagining “what it could be like” frequently without taking steps toward change.
I could have checked all those boxes well into my mid-twenties. In Boundaries for Your Soul, I write about the moment when my vivid imagination could no longer sustain me, and I came crashing into reality with a panicked thud.
And painful as the initial wake-up call was, I learned from my mistake.
If you have an overly active fantasizing, daydreaming, what-iffing part of your soul, here are 4 ways to turn it into your creative reality making ally:
1.) Get curious about what you’re dreaming about. What is at the root of that daydream? Is it a relationship that is loving, romantic, and meaningful? A job that brings you joy? A family that is joyful. . . or simply a family of your own? Notice the content of your daydreams – there’s good information there to help you understand your desires.
2.) Set a boundary with your daydreaming. Ask yourself, “what would happen if I daydreamed just a little less?” Typically a fantasizing protector is keeping you from feeling loneliness, fear, emptiness, or self-doubt. So when you first start to set gentle boundaries with it, the painful feelings you’ve been numbing start to surface. That’s OK. Those parts of your soul are valuable, and they need your loving presence.
3.) Acknowledge the reality of your longings before God. God may not magically fix your situation, but he will join you in your deepest fears and longings, bringing you the nourishment you need. Just as Jesus went to those who were hurting and broken and healed them, he longs to bring those discouraged, beaten down parts of your very own soul into his healing presence.
4.) Take steps toward bringing your dreams into your reality. That daydreaming part of you is full of imagination and creativity. Once you’ve set some healthy boundaries with it and faced your vulnerable feelings, harness some of that creativity to help you identify steps you can actually take right here in your reality. If you’re having trouble getting past your fear and self-doubt, seek the help of an expert.
To face reality means becoming vulnerable to uncomfortable feelings such as fear, loneliness, self-doubt, and even emptiness. No wonder we try to distance ourselves from it and settle for fantasy instead. But facing the reality of your circumstances doesn’t have to break you. In fact, it puts you on the path toward developing a fuller, more meaningful and creative life.
God doesn’t promise to give you everything you want, and yet he wants you to live wholeheartedly. When you bring your dreams to him, he works gently in your heart to honor your fears and doubts and helps you design dreams you can make real in partnership with Him.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. – Matthew 7:25