Fantasized good or bad

The power of daydreams

The power of daydreams

Our brain uses every free second to fantasize. This time is by no means wasted. A closer look at the inner pictures shows: They are good for us.

The waves play gently and evenly with the tiny pebbles. That tingles pleasantly on your feet, which are lapped by a turquoise-colored, lukewarm sea. The setting sun paints a golden road on the water. In the background the palm trees rustle in the wind, the music from the pool bar carries over - and a high-pitched ringing of the doorbell. Wait a minute, why does the hotel telephone ring just like the one in the living room? From the dream. Of course we never left the desk for a second. And on the computer screen, the cursor is still blinking in the same place. "Income from non-self-employed work" is the heading. “Now pull yourself together,” we reprimand ourselves, “otherwise the tax return will never work!” For fractions of a second we feel caught like in school, where the math teacher tore us from other daydreams with harsh words.
We don't need to have a guilty conscience at all. On the contrary. "Daydreams are immensely important," clarifies the Weinheim psychologist and book author Heiko Ernst ("Inner Worlds", Klett Cotta, 239 pages; out of print, but new on the Internet for around 11 euros). “Children in particular must be able to distance themselves from the environment. It largely depends on how well they deal with their feelings and how well they can control themselves. ”But it is precisely on this point that we never stop learning. In this respect, we are allowed to daydream even in adulthood. We even have to go a little way. “When I wrote my book in 2011, daydreams still had a pretty bad image in research,” says Heiko Ernst. “That has changed a lot. Today, these supposed rest periods of the brain are seen in a new light. ”Because while we treat ourselves to a break, our thinking organ is performing at its best.

Notching allowed

Seen from the outside - and for decades no other approach was possible without a brain scanner - this can hardly be seen: With an empty gaze, the daydreamer fixes any point beyond the horizon and smiles thoughtfully. And that in times like these! No wonder that boredom, disinterest, laziness, selfishness or even signs of being overwhelmed are quickly suspected. Studies have shown that boredom is true. The rest belongs in the prejudice drawer. “Daydreams represent a normal function of our brain,” says Prof. Thomas Kretschmar, head of the Mind Institute in Berlin (“Using the power of inner images”, southwest, 223 pages, 16.99 euros). “It is pointless to defend yourself against it.” And even unhealthy in the long run. "To be continuously concentrated is not possible and not even necessary," explains Heiko Ernst. “Every 20 minutes or so, our brain searches for and takes a break. If daydreams occur more often, it is a clear signal that we have taken on too much lately. ”In everyday life there are more than enough opportunities to go on an imaginary journey, e. For example, on a long train journey while we wait for the bus, on the park bench during our lunch break or while taking a walk. “Instead, nowadays, more and more people are staring at a small screen at such moments,” criticizes Heiko Ernst. Smartphones and tablets provided us with news, photos and films around the clock. "But these external images immediately switch off our internal ones."
Where this can lead in extreme cases, Prof. Thomas Kretschmar often experiences with burn-out patients who come to his practice. "They are unconditional fulfillers of expectations," explains the expert. “They are downright afraid of what might“ come up ”if they don't do as much as possible for others.” Not just daydreams, the entire self-perception is therefore capped. “They push every inner voice into the background,” says Prof. Kretschmar. "In many clinics, burn-out patients are therefore initially not allowed to do anything other than sleep, exercise, psychotherapy, eat and go for a walk." They should find their way back to themselves. We don't even lose it when we (again) take time for our daydreams. “We should give them the same value as night dreams,” advises Heiko Ernst. “For example, by keeping a daydream diary.” Then patterns, recurring places, people and feelings are revealed. We recognize whether we are always daydreaming in or after certain situations. “This is how we track ourselves down,” the expert encourages. “Daydreams tell us what is missing and what concerns us. They invite us to think about ourselves and how we can close the gap between desire and reality that they show us. ”If a daydream leaves us with the feeling:“ I can't do it alone! ”, We should have the courage to share it with others, such as a partner or a good friend. "It is not uncommon for people who are close to us to daydream about similar things," says Heiko Ernst. "A common vision can develop from this - great luck."

Healing role play

So the daydream keeps us on track. Or he'll take the wheel if we deviate from it. He shakes us up, reminds us of what we are capable of, motivated. But it also regularly directs our inner gaze into the past. Especially when we struggle with her, cannot or do not want to let go of her (yet). "Then the daydream seems like a place of retreat," says Heiko Ernst. "It gives us consolation, calms us down and helps the brain to process and classify what we have experienced." B. In the daydream, for example, we can simply pour mustard over them. The bumpy first conversation with the new head of department goes smoothly afterwards in our head cinema. We counter the biting comment of the neighbor in our imagination eloquently and confidently. "If we no longer allow ourselves such absences, we lack inner compensation, and emotionally it is more difficult to distance ourselves from the things that happen to us," warns Heiko Ernst. The daydream makes them bit by bit more bearable for us.
"And in every stressful feeling there is also the solution to the problem," says Prof. Thomas Kretschmar. “I recently saw a client who was very angry with her boss, with whom she is also friends.” He asked the patient to close her eyes, relax and then, in the daydream, slip into the role of boss. “I asked her: how does that feel? What do you need? ”Says the psychologist. “In this way, the woman was able to uncover sensitive parts of herself. At the end of the daydream, she gave her boss and friend a sun, a symbol of luck. She had a new relationship experience that will definitely influence her future behavior. "
It doesn't always end so well. Negative daydreams sometimes lure us into a brooding trap. The brain assembles certain images into an endless loop. And with each repetition, the "problem" continues to swell. Then it's time to pull the brakes on the thought carousel. "With a little practice, I can, for example, contrast beautiful or funny daydream images," advises Heiko Ernst. But far more often daydreams simply give us a good time. They act like a pause button in everyday life. “They can mean something, but they don't have to,” says Heiko Ernst. "Many daydreams are self-sufficient. We should enjoy them like a short vacation."