His head was most valuable when he had lost it. In such moments he put two and two together and made four million.
The theory in the department was that he made amazing discoveries because his disordered mind, unconstrained by cherished hypotheses, made unexpected connections and stumbled upon serendipitous solutions. A study showed that we adults with attention deficit disorder show higher levels of original creative thinking and more actual creative achievements than you bean counters who are good at attentiveness. I kept being distracted by ideas for making money that nobody else would waste time on.
In a bunch of brain scientists got a government grant to study the brains of rappers as they freestyled, improvising tunes and lyrics in the moment. The challenges before us present a puzzle.
Global warming. National debt. Justin Bieber. Sadly, we focus on short-term, immediate payoffs.
The future belongs to those who go beyond facts and think globally and synthetically, make serendipitous associations and devise surprising, novel combinations. If he's performing at a show, he'll shift about as though on stage. He'll even get stage fright beforehand. It's a far cry from a life of unemployment, waiting at home every day for his wife to return from work. I'd like to scale it back, but I don't know what people do with their minds instead of using them to dream all the time.
Somer's long term goal is to have maladaptive daydreaming formally recognised as a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM , used by clinicians all over the world to diagnose and treat mental health patients. But getting a new disorder into the DSM, which is controlled by the American Psychiatric Association, is an ultimately subjective science.
Even the National Institute of Mental Health, the world's largest funding agency for mental health research, has accused its categorization process as being "based on a consensus" rather than "objective laboratory measure. The main obstacle in Somer's way is the stance of his critics, who accuse him of defying a cardinal clinical sin: the pathologizing of normal mental activity. Eric Klinger, a professor at the University of Minnesota who studies the relationship between fantasy-proneness and psychopathology, agrees that what Somer has identified could be described as "a certain kind of condition," and is "worthy of clinical attention.
But, he says, "I would not like to see us create [another] dubious category for daydreaming that an individual regards as maladaptive. Daydreaming is probably universal among humans with intact brains, Klinger explains. It takes up about half our mental activity, is comprised of more than 2, "segments" every day, and usually relates to a personal goal—whether we realize it or not. Following on from that, it just so happens that some people engage in the activity more than others.
And some people from that subcategory wish they didn't. Hence "maladaptive. That doesn't make it a unique disorder, according to Klinger, who also points to the condition's frequent overlap with other psychiatric disorders, like major depression and OCD.
But not all compulsive daydreamers are depressed or have OCD, Somer argues. And not all depressed people, or people with OCD, have vivid, uncontrollable fantasies. Jayne Bigelsen, a Harvard-trained lawyer from New York with a Masters degree in psychology, is the only MD researcher who has experienced compulsive daydreaming firsthand. By the age of three or four, Bigelsen was walking around in circles for hours at a time, shaking a piece of string and fantasizing about school life and her favorite TV shows. Then, somewhere around twelve or thirteen years old, "I just lost control," she says.
Jayne as a child: "My parents are pretty sure I was daydreaming in this picture.
Maladaptive daydreaming: Symptoms and management
She got through a law degree by turning her fantasy life into a study tool. Her daydreams centered on General Hospital , so Bigelsen envisaged her characters as law students. In , before she met Somer, Bigelsen persuaded her psychiatrist to write a case study on her compulsive daydreaming after coming across a discussion in the comments section of an Indian parenting website.
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They were talking about the stress and shame of hiding their split realities, and she identified immediately. A few years later, Bigelsen found herself in an fMRI scanner.
A reporter had come across her psychiatrist's case study and introduced her to a professor at Columbia University, who wanted to observe Bigelsen's brain activity while she daydreamed. Specifically, the dorsal and ventral striatal regions, where humans process and experience pleasure. There may be several pathways that lead the brain to MD, says Somer. One of those is obsessive compulsive disorder, with many MDers complaining of an "urge to perfect the scenario and the fantasy, and to repeat it and rehash it and develop it further and further.
Bigelsen's experience adds weight to that theory—she only found relief when her psychiatrist suggested she take fluvoxamine, an antidepressant often prescribed for OCD, which runs in her family. Afterwards, she couldn't daydream at all, "not even when I tried. For the quarter of MDers who were abused or neglected as kids, MD might start not as OCD but as a powerful defence mechanism in childhood.
The Importance of Daydreaming
Somer's patients recall dreaming up a "better, alternative" family when they were children as a way to escape their pain. Just regular, peaceful daily lives—breakfast, going to school. The joy is there is of normality, of experiencing attachment. We all need attachment in order not to be disordered. Research into the condition led by the University of British Columbia is also in its early stages, but the case study subjects appear to be doing the same thing Bigelsen did as a child. When you ask them what they're doing, they all say, 'I'm making stories up,' or 'I'm imagining.
However the compulsion first takes hold, Bigelsen says she is constantly surprised by how much further ahead of mental health practitioners MDers are.
This is a real thing! She knows some, if not most, doctors will balk at the idea of "medicating creativity. Beyond the research and the online community and the constant emails she receives, Bigelsen can only point to herself. We even use certain language that prevents us from exploring further. Daydreaming raises awareness of the beyond. And in doing so, we can envision the plethora of possibilities to make dreams realities.
We have always imagined a better future, hence advances in technology, science, medicine, the arts and humanities. We have been visionaries since the dawn of time. We have always wished for a brighter future, not just for ourselves, but for others and the world around us. When we are in a relaxed state, we are more likely to make wiser decisions around our health and overall well-being. By introducing relaxation into our lives, we have much more room to dream. Jacklyn Janeksela, MFA, is a freelance writer and a poet.
Her online self, aka that writing life, can be found here.
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She works for Culture Designers, Thrillist, Honey Colony, among others; her poetry is tangled on the inter-webs. Her herbal alchemy meets astrology creative business can be found here. She explores self through poetry, planets and photography female filet. If you want to enhance your innovative powers, the first step is to practice daydreaming : Program daydreaming into your schedule as you would with any other practice. Set aside a few minutes a day and allow your imagination to run wild.