I do not think there is one person in this world who has not done wishful thinking. We all have a tendency to daydream about our future or things we would like to do.
According to researchers, we spend about 10%-20% of our time absorbed in wishful thinking and imagination. Those around us could say that we are spaced-out, bored, not interested in the subject of a discussion or the activity we are doing at that time, and in some cases, we risk being classified as emotionally unstable.
Why Does Wishful Thinking Occur and How Does It Benefit Us?
We daydream because we may encounter some difficulties in real life or we cannot cope with stress, and as such, we find refuge in imagination. Wishful thinking is a form of escapism that can help us build our goals, strategies, or find solutions to various problems.
Thus, the cerebral activity does not slow down during wishful thinking and daydreaming, as others may believe. On the contrary, the cognitive processes become more intense, which means that we focus more on problems or goals. This subsequently leads to a clearer understanding of the steps we need to take while motivating ourselves.
As a matter of fact, it is even recommended that we allow ourselves to daydream at work, say the British researchers of the University of Lancashire quoted by the Daily Mail. The study they have recently published indicates that daydreaming helps us become more creative and find solutions to our problems more easily.
Furthermore, wishful thinking helps us regulate our emotions, becoming more empathetic and patient.
But There Are Also Negative Consequences of Wishful Thinking
There are not many scientific data about the advantages and disadvantages of wishful thinking because it is a phenomenon that has not been studied so far.
How often it is normal to fall into imaginary scenarios a day is not exactly known, but a warning sign should be made when we come to construct an alternate life in our minds. Imaginary lives can profoundly affect our professional and personal life. We can no longer see the difference between realistic and unrealistic plans, we may become more easily hurt by people’s behaviour due to the high expectations we start building.
Professor Eli Somers, an Israeli psychotherapist, claims that in such situations, we are talking about an adaptation disorder, but it is not yet recognized by the medical community.
Uncontrolled, wishful thinking can lead to depression and anxiety episodes as the individual struggles to find motivation or resources to cope with challenges.
Who Is Prone to Wishful Thinking and Daydreaming?
It would be unfair to finger point at a certain type of people who will indulge in wishful thinking. Yet, there are some personality traits that can increase the chances of it.
Intuitive Introverts – INTP, INTJ, INFJ, INFP
If you are familiar with the MBTI personality types, you know what I am talking about.
Intuitive introverts may sometimes struggle to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, let alone describe their plans for the future. So an inner conversation or a few minutes of daydreaming is what helps them put their ideas in order and prepare for possible challenges.
Empaths are highly sensitive to their surroundings and to people’s personal problems. As a result of their ability to absorb energies, they often feel stressed, anxious or depressed.
When the reality is too harsh for them and they cannot find joy around, they tend to escape into their imaginary world where nothing disturbs their peace.
A narcissist will spend most of the time creating scenarios in which his/her grandiosity will help her/him gain power or become famous for those unmatchable qualities. In their mind, there is no space for failure nor enough time to focus on the real issues or people around them.
An alternative reason why narcissists fantasize often may be due to their poor stress management skills.
Melancholiacs are never happy with superficial things and as such, there must be something really special and interesting to bring them out of their shell.
When a conversation or an event does not satisfy their interest, they will hide in their mind where they either analyze the past or contemplate the future.
The explanation is given by their hyperactivity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex which handles threat-related thoughts. This is why a neurotic will spend so much time daydreaming.
How to Stop Excessive Wishful Thinking and Daydreaming?
If you catch yourself lost in thoughts or imaginary scenarios more often than you should, try to understand the pattern or cause. Is it a pain from the past you cannot heal? A goal that you passionately wish to accomplish it? Whatever the cause, stop daydreaming about it and find solutions that could help you overcome your problem/achieve your goal.
If you cannot find joy or the circumstances seem to put emotional pressure on you, try to identify solutions that could either resolve the problems or help you distance yourself from them for a while.
If you cannot see a way out, look for professional help. There are many people and organizations out there who are willing to support and guide you.