Wake butterfly –
it’s late, we’ve miles
to go together.
Whether you decide to wean yourself off gradually or go cold turkey, physical cessation of engaging in MD is a prerequisite for stopping it. Force yourself to stop daydreaming for a certain period of time – not in order to stop MD altogether – but in order to release and identify underlying toxic emotions and pain that fantasy is censoring. You will be surprised what will come out. As already explained in the first part of this series, once you have familiarized yourself with the pain, loneliness, fears and once you have surrendered to them and gradually accepted them, you should lose the impulse to use MD as an escape method.
Now, a question: is MD an attempt to run away from yourself or an attempt to finally reach yourself?
I say both. If you embrace negative feelings and face them, that should stop you from using MD for escape purposes. However, you will still want to use fantasy to temporarily come in touch with detached feelings and parts of yourself. Now let’s see what we can do about this part.
When you finally decide that you are going to try to put an end to this madness, one thing usually stands in your way: emotional bluntness. Inability to connect to yourself and consequently to the real world. Probably the most discouraging feeling in the entire recovery that drives all your relapses.
When you think about it, it’s not bad feelings that torture and compel you to engage in daydreaming as much as it’s the lack of feelings. But what causes this numbness?
Detachment isn’t a product of what we call MD. Numbness was already there – and MD was your way of dealing with it. You wound up numb and emotionally disconnected from reality because you became emotionally disconnected from yourself and MD was merely a response to this. Do you notice that the moment you switch the point of view from yourself to your daydream characters [or idealized you] and use them as receptors instead, you can instantly feel? Or rather, they can feel and you can feel through them. In other words, you are physiologically able to feel. Which brings us to conclusion that you are not an emotionless nutcase or somebody who is beyond repair. You can feel but dissociation stands in your way.
There is an ongoing misconception that maladaptive daydreamers are at disadvantage because our drug of choice is accessible all the time making it perpetually tempting and harder for us to stop while alcohol or meth addicts have to go through some bother to get hands on theirs. Well, not really. We are not special because we are maladaptive daydreamers and we aren’t having it any more difficult than other people dealing with addictions. All addictions involve fantasy. All of them. When a meth addict isn’t taking meth, he’s thinking about it all the time. It’s the first thought that flashes through his mind when he wakes up and the last thought that leaves him before he falls asleep. A daydreamer is not the only one who is stuck in a fantasy world non-stop. All addicts are. We are collectively cut off from the outside world, we are all a bit numb and a bit lost in this ocean of alienation.
Emotional bluntness follows all addictions as their elemental driving force. Numbness, coldness, detachment, inability to connect – these things aren’t specific to just you. Whoever had addiction also struggled with partial or complete lack of emotional response relative to the real world. People addicted to pornography usually cannot experience intimate or sexual feelings with a real person yet, hey, it’s sex they crave. A daydreamer who craves connection to something but cannot connect to anything isn’t any different.
Breaking through the numbness is a slow process. When reality slaps you in the face and your dreamworld crumbles, this does not equal instant recovery – this person who will wake up will still not be you. The numbness you feel upon stopping MD, detachment, loneliness, alienation and cold reality everyone seems to love but you hate – these are not you, they are not your ultimate destination. It it just an ugly, long, sometimes discouragingly long transition between waking up from a dream and actually awakening to reality.
Breaking Through the Numbness
Technically, you can be aware of every single problem of yours but until life slaps you and robs you of comfort zones, you will not start to deal with MD. Many of us need to be challenged and pushed to the edge of our limits in order to start doing things about our lives, just like a smoker needs to hear that his lungs are ravaged before desire for change can be born. You need a specific situation, something, someone who will wake you up, who will tell you in your face that you’re a fucking insecure coward who runs away and is inept to live. I mean, sure, I know I’m a coward, my depression makes sure to remind me of it every day, but when someone else tells you this, it hits you in quite a different way. It hurts. On a very, very deep intimate level. Then you start to get angry – with that person and with yourself. You finally start to process emotionally what you have done with your life, you come in touch with pain that has been hurting you for far too long and you slowly come to your senses. Then you start doing something about it. The main drawback is that we always deal with pain alone. That is not going to work. You can’t do it alone. You need an observer, something or someone external, you need to be challenged, outright pissed off to start making changes.
Get angry. With your therapist who doesn’t understand, with your family that undermines your problems. With the world, with yourself, with reality. Not frustrated but angry. Acknowledge the anger, acknowledge the helplessness and let them wash you clean.
Metaphorically speaking, you are stuck in a body that isn’t yours. I’m not referring to your daydream characters here. I referring to your real self, the one you see in the mirror and think of as foreign and miserable, the same one that is plagued with depression, self-contempt or low self-esteem, which make your self-image completely distorted. Heck, of course you will want to run away and escape from this decaying body, this broken self, because this isn’t you, this can’t be real you – otherwise you would have never wanted to escape from it in the first place. Your mind knows this, hence the impulse for running away. Your MD isn’t a protest against reality, it’s a protest against this broken, distorted self – that is NOT you as you should have been.
Lastly, get angry with this messed up version of yourself, with numbness and dissociation and void. And whenever someone tells you that you messed up your life and irrevocably wasted it, whenever they mention all the things you could have done but didn’t, your seeming lack of passion or interest in real life, get angry with them too because no one knows that every day is a struggle for you, because no one knows what it’s like to not to exist anywhere. Get angry because none of this is your fault. Because you didn’t choose to be like this.
Then start to change things. For somebody who has bottled things up their whole life, anger is an immensely healthy and purifying emotion. Destructive but purifying. It’s the fight component of fight or flight mode that makes one face uncomfortable situations and fears head-on, without running away from them or feeling intimidated. Anger will probably be the first emotion to awake in you relative to the real world. Welcome it and hate everything around you if you want to. Hate the real world if you need to. But hate it with passion. Just don’t be numb to it.
This is where bluntness breaks down and you begin. Seek situations that make you care about something other than your fantasy even for just 10 seconds, whether it’s destructive or warm and beautiful. Try to pinpoint these short, fleeting moments when you feel spontaneity of emotions, when real you awakens – and then hold onto them. In the beginning they are short, followed by a week or two or three of numbness and emptiness, but once they happen, let them be your hope, a reminder that things can be normal. When numbness strikes again, and it will, don’t ask yourself what you are doing wrong. Because you are doing nothing wrong. It’s normal – you simply have to be persistent even when the weight of the void keeps pressing down on you, you have to keep going. Every time you feel like you’re falling and failing, let pain defeat you over and over again and maybe this insane battle will make you feel alive every time you hit rock bottom. It sounds odd but pain, even tough it’s terrifying, reminds you that you’re alive. It pushes you to the limits. MD numbs pain and so it numbs the feeling of being alive. Your dream self may be alive but you aren’t as long as you rely on MD not to fall apart.
You know what the worst thing you can do to yourself is?
Convince yourself that you really are without passion and incapable of feeling emotions you experience in your daydreams. If in the midst of your withdrawal you think to yourself that you will never be the person you are in your fantasies, you are automatically self-sabotaging. Don’t think of reality as something foreign you have never experienced before that everyone suddenly expects you to come to love after years of being absent. Reality is where your feelings are – feelings shape our perception of it to the point one could even argue that there is no objective reality. You exist where your feelings are. All your feelings are in your fantasies right now, but once you transfer them not from your daydream characters to reality, but from your daydream characters to yourself, you will automatically start to connect to reality.
MD is not a split between worlds – it’s the split of the self. You can fuse the worlds together but the emptiness remains because the one who observes these worlds is broken in two. Don’t obsess over trying to stop daydreaming. Don’t obsess over trying to love reality. You’ll fail. Focus on healing the self and cravings will reduce automatically. Your goal number one is to make yourself feel without censorship all the things your daydream characters feel. When you succeed this, you win.
When you finally start to get better and receive positive feedback from reality, you’ll relapse. It’s the ridiculous law of addiction and you can do little to avoid it.
You aren’t a heavy smoker who can just give up tobacco and then find another distraction. MD often bleeds into every possible aspect of your life so when you do away with fantasy, you automatically do away with your entire life, leaving yourself with nothing. There is no one, no home, no reality to return to. If your recovery is going well, you will have more and more moments when you briefly come in touch with your true self [and therefore with reality too], but majority of your days will still be tainted with numbness.
If at this point you really relapse [and chances are very, very high], oh well. It’s actually perfectly normal. Do not spend a moment beating yourself up over it. Cravings will exist as long as dissociation exists. MD is your life force, it’s the energy that cries out to be released one way or another – and you can neither stop it nor ignore it. As I said in the beginning, stopping daydreaming is necessary only in order to let repressed issues out and then feel them with your entire being, which will ultimately liberate you from their toxic grip. If you relapse after you have done your emotional detoxification, it’s okay. From this point onwards, all you need to do is focus on breaking dissociation and healing yourself. If you daydream in the meantime to give yourself a little fix to pull you through the periods of nothingness, make sure you don’t use MD to repress things and don’t let it distract you. Always use it with the idea that things you feel in daydreams can be felt in real life too, that things your characters feel were originally supposed to be yours. The more you come in touch with yourself, the more will your addiction collapse. When you feed MD, you starve yourself – but when you feed yourself, you starve MD. Break the dissociation of the self and MD is gone.