Wishful Thinking and Daydreams

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From lecture 236, THE SUPERSTITION OF PESSIMISM:

Now, my friends, here is a pitfall I wish to warn against. The courage to believe in positive life unfoldment can very easily be confused with wishful thinking. There is a subtle and yet very distinct difference between wishful thinking and a virile faith in the positive. You all indulge very easily in wishful thinking. Then, to be “realistic” — because you already know the disappointing results of wishful thinking — you revert into the superstition of pessimism.

Let us be very clear about the difference between wishful thinking and the realism of positive belief. There is one very distinct, clear, simple, and important factor that will simplify matters for you in order to distinguish between them.

Wishful thinking is spinning dreams of fulfillment without having to pay a price: without any change of personality or attitude or approach or thinking or feeling or acting or being. You daydream that this or that desirable fulfillment will magically and gratuitously come your way without any investment in life and the process of creation, without contributing to the evolutionary process by committing to your purification. Wishful thinking is a passive dreaming in which you hope against hope that something will happen to you that is desirable and that does not require you to remove the very block that prevents the desirable event or state.

The less you invest in the effort that could make desirable events or states a reality, the less you believe in their actual manifestation. The more you justify the superstition of pessimism, the less desirable your life becomes. Increasingly you wish to escape from it by spinning daydreams that substitute for reality. This consumes a lot of creative energy that could be invested in real living and fulfillment. Daydreams are just the other side of the superstition of pessimism.

So you see, my friends, the superstition of pessimism and the daydreaming are very closely interrelated and not at all mutually exclusive. You may on the same day or even within one hour indulge in daydreams and then perhaps in a matter of minutes indulge in the superstition of negativity.

You could accomplish the very thing you daydream about — consuming a tremendous amount of energy and mischannelled creativity — if only you made a total commitment to life and self, giving your best to both, which are one. When you fail to realize the daydream, your disappointment reinforces the superstition of pessimism.

What was begun as a game then reinforces the negative belief. The vicious circle accelerates, and you find it ever more difficult to extricate yourself. You swing back and forth from the superstition of negativity to the wishful daydream. The more you indulge in the wishful daydream to escape from the negativity, the less you can truly experience beauty, fulfillment, abundance, love, joy, peace and excitement.

Wishful daydreams are often spun by a diminished ego rather than by the desire that comes from your higher self, your inner spirit. In these dreams a diminished ego seeks a false medicine against its own underdevelopment. For example, rather than visualizing yourself in a productive vocation, joyfully and meaningfully contributing to life, or visualizing your success and abundance for the sheer enjoyment of the fruits of your labor as a valid expression of life, you dream of yourself as a great person in order to impress others, perhaps your family or those who have slighted you.

Even in these ego gratifications, however, the original facets of true value are contained. Your dignity is a reality that you look for and often displace, confusing it with the petty pride of the limited ego. The true value of your inner spirit aims for rich fulfillment of love, abundance, friendship, communication, even for recognition and respect. But in a daydream it all comes in a fairy tale manner that does not really convince you, so of course you cannot believe in it.

Many of you may have observed in the course of your pathwork that at the beginning of your path you still had the habit of indulging considerably in daydreaming. Perhaps even without really noticing it or intentionally trying to stop it, you lost the desire for it. The more you deal with the reality of your being, the more real life becomes. The temptation to manufacture wish-fulfilling daydreams diminishes.

Yet many of you still indulge in it, at least in certain areas of your life. Where this is the case, look deeper. Find the level where you also still indulge in the superstition of your negative beliefs. You can pursue this thought and discover yourself hoping, in a very subtle way, that someone will come along and give you fulfillment gratuitously, without any effort on your part, without your removing the obstructions to the fulfillment or even attempting to see that they lie within yourself. You hope that a super-authority will reassure you that it will happen just like in your daydreams, you don’t have to earn or acquire it, it will be given to you.

From lecture 98, WISHFUL DAYDREAMS:

Basically, there are two different kinds of wishful daydreams. One comes from thoughts that arise from drives. These drives are connected with your idealized self-image, your self-glorification, your feelings of inadequacy and your lack of self-confidence. There isn’t a human being who does not, even consciously at times, indulge in fantasies. In them, you see yourself in situations in which you prove to those who have slighted you how superior or great you are. In such daydreams you are admired instead of slighted and you experience satisfaction, revenge and gratified pride. Thus you enjoy living in a way that exactly opposes your deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. You “correct” your undesirable reality with fantasy.

Obviously, there is harm in spending precious energy on such wishful daydreams — energy that could be much more constructively spent on finding the root of your sense of inadequacy and eliminating it. In living through such fantasies, you may experience momentary relief, but it is purely illusory. It is not enough to say that daydreaming is escaping reality. This is true, but let us understand more precisely how that happens. If you resist finding the truth about yourself, that you have made errors and cling to misconceptions, you cannot come to terms with yourself. Nor can you come to terms with others or with life as a whole. At least, you cannot learn to accept the areas that are affected by your problems. So you whisk away these inadequacies by experiencing their opposite in fantasy. It is true that the fantasy does bring relief to a drab life, but the availability of such relief will hamper your efforts at finding the cause and effect of your problems and instituting more constructive patterns.

There is also a benefit to daydreaming, however. Since realistic remedies are not sought, the activity of correcting life in fantasy removes aggression, hostility and destructive impulses. Another benefit is daydreams act as symptoms. How can you ever find a sickness if there are no symptoms? If a physical disease is hidden in an inner organ, without producing any symptoms, you have no opportunity to seek and treat the cause before it is too late. The same mechanism applies to your soul life.

Most people, however, enjoy the symptoms — the daydreams — and do not wish to recognize them for what they are; therefore, they do not benefit from them. Simply using some form of discipline to repress your desire to daydream in order to improve your life will not serve any purpose. It will cause greater anxiety, with different outlets and symptoms. It is better to create a little distance from this activity by observing the particular pattern of your daydreams. Make a note of them. Realize their general goal. This will offer you invaluable material about the root of your problems. Instead of repressing daydreams or indulging in them without trying to observe and understand, see them as the useful symptoms they are. You will thus turn a destructive activity into a constructive one, as long as it still seems necessary. Your psyche will give it up to the degree that you learn to love life in reality. Then the daydreams will simply cease by themselves. This cessation has to be a natural, organic process.

The second category of wishful daydreaming is emotional and comes from needs instead of drives. Your repressed, unrecognized needs may create an even stronger force, just because they are repressed. This force then must have an outlet. If healthy need fulfillment is hindered through your pseudosolutions, unrealistic fears and erroneous images, which paralyze your constructive energy and resourcefulness, then an imaginary outlet is necessary. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual fulfillment is then possible only in fantasy. This is actually a relief and not merely an escape from a drab reality.

When you are unwilling to leave your isolation, your needs cannot be fulfilled. As you know from previous talks on the subject, you either repress awareness of your needs or displace them onto superimposed needs that are not genuine. This displacement creates confusion and knots. It paralyzes your spontaneity, your capacity to feel, to live, and to experience reality. This, in turn, creates many vicious circles, which then make it even more difficult to break out of the destructive pattern. Since your psyche refuses to be cheated of real living, the accumulated pressure will often necessitate some outlet. You may then experience a certain fulfillment in daydreams. Observing and evaluating your daydreams can help you categorize them. It is very likely that you produce fantasy fulfillments for both real and false needs.

The more satisfying your fantasy fulfillment is, the less incentive you will have to resolve your problems so that your fulfillment can become real. In fantasy you live a life of your own behind your walls of isolation and can direct everything as you choose, without interference from others and without meeting obstructions. Thus fantasy seems more desirable than life. But the more you live in these daydreams, the less it will be possible for you to deal with outer obstructions, and the more their power will grow on you. Finally you will come to believe that actual fulfillment is impossible because you cannot direct people and circumstances as you choose. This negative view of fulfillment is, of course, utterly false, since fulfillment is possible in spite of everything not happening exactly when and how you desire it. But fulfillment is possible only if you are flexible and flow with life’s stream. Due to the unconscious conviction that in reality fulfillment is impossible, you can completely withdraw from living and no longer try to attain real satisfaction of your needs. The precarious pseudofulfillment is at least something, and seems so much more than what you are capable of experiencing in reality at this time. Determine whether this holds true for you and to what extent. This will be so beneficial, so healthy!

Some daydreaming of this sort may even spur you to seek fulfillment in reality. In that case, daydreams do have a beneficial effect. It depends on what level you produce them and what your attitude is toward them.

The more immature people are, the more “successful” their daydreaming will be and the less they will be capable of and willing to live their lives in the here and now. They want complete control of circumstances, which they can have only in fantasy. This also works in reverse, so that when they try to be flexible and resilient in meeting outer circumstances that do not entirely accord with their preconceived ideas, they will feel less capable of experiencing fulfillment. The discrepancy between daydreams in which they can make others behave, feel, and react as they want, and the reality, which is often different and requires flexibility and patience, is too much for them. Thus they prefer living in a make-believe world of future fulfillment, expecting that today’s fantasy will turn into tomorrow’s reality. Of course, the morrow never comes. The reality never conforms to the fantasy that has been laboriously prepared in daydreaming; this causes frustration. In truth, reality is infinitely more satisfying than the daydreams, but one needs courage and flexibility; one has to give up the need to control everything, throw away the blueprints, and live spontaneously.

All this should make it quite clear that the harm of daydreaming is that it may prevent you from living in reality.

Now, what is the benefit of this kind of daydreaming? It presents symptoms from which much insight can be gained; it may spur you to live more fully. Also, it can function as a barometer of inner changes. The different emotional quality of your fantasies and the kind of satisfaction you derive from them may indeed indicate the direction of your growth. Determining this is very beneficial.

Moreover, daydreaming of this kind encourages awareness of repressed needs. You will appreciate by now how important this is. But, my friends, often you are only vaguely aware of your needs, or if you are conscious of them, you do not evaluate them. You allow yourself to feel these needs only in your daydreams. The moment you step into real life, you shut off this awareness and you live as though this other part of you had nothing to do with the rest of your life. Your reaction to real life creates a split that could be mended by increased awareness. The harm of daydreams, then, is in your failure to take advantage of the benefits they could bring to your real life.

A greater awareness of your daydreaming can bring many benefits. My advice to you on this path is that whenever you find yourself engaged in such fantasizing, develop a new approach. Observe, evaluate, weigh and determine — without strain, compulsion or pressure — calmly and quietly. Make daydreams the useful symptom they are meant to be by learning about yourself, your real needs, your drives, your pseudo-fulfillment in fantasies and about their purpose.

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To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.

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