Daydream Believer: Are You? I am.

From Jonah Lehrer:

Humans are a daydreaming species. According to a recent study led by the Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingsworth, people let their minds wander forty-seven per cent of the time they are awake. (The scientists demonstrated this by developing an iPhone app that contacted twenty-two hundred and fifty volunteers at random intervals during the day.) In fact, the only activity during which we report that our minds are not constantly wandering is “love making.” We’re able to focus for that.

At first glance, such data seems like a confirmation of our inherent laziness. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, mind-wandering is often derided as useless—the kind of thinking we rely on when we don’t really want to think. Freud, for instance, described daydreams as “infantile” and a means of escaping from the necessary chores of the world into fantasies of “wish-fulfillment.”

In recent years, however, psychologists and neuroscientists have redeemed this mental state, revealing the ways in which mind-wandering is an essential cognitive tool. It turns out that whenever we are slightly bored—when reality isn’t quite enough for us—we begin exploring our own associations, contemplating counterfactuals and fictive scenarios that only exist within the head.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Some of us, like me, have to constantly fight to keep ourselves in the moment, even for a bit. Perhaps that is what they now call attention deficit disorder.

    I also think that is why I like to have some hobbies in my life that absolutely demand undivided attention. Extreme motorcycle riding, racing in general, RC airplane aerobatics, … The fear has a way of motivating attention.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    “…mind-wandering is an essential cognitive tool. It turns out that whenever we are slightly bored—when reality isn’t quite enough for us—we begin exploring our own associations, contemplating counterfactuals and fictive scenarios that only exist within the head.”

    oh, yeah – I have to reign in my tangents when I open my mouth. :D Even my husband of 25 years sometimes has to say, “Ann, how did you get there from what we were discussing???” Sometimes I can unravel the how for him, and sometimes it zips around so fast that I can only guess or shrug, sheepishly.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Im right there with both of you. My biggest struggle, physically and spiritually, is to be where I am, when I am. Im learning that my anxious need to escape a moment and to work out every detail in my head is very often based on the deep seated fear that my worth and hope lies in what I know and in what I am able to do perfectly—and I don’t know enough or do enough.

    Sometimes I remember that God’s chose to call Himself “I am”. There is no notion of anxious regret for the past, nor of needing to be something different in the future. I long for the peace to be able to say, in any given moment, that “I am”; to be free to lay aside my need to know, to be right, to speak wise words to others for their enlightenment—to just BE as I am created to be.

    Then, sometimes, by God’s grace, I realize that this is the exact same thing that everyone wants. To be at peace. To be able to say “I am” without an underlying shameful need to be, know, or do “more”.

    Then, if I am humble, God fills me with compassion and a genuine desire to give up my right to “just be” so that maybe I can help an other understand that they already “are” if they would just believe it. In the rare times when I choose to give up my right to peace, my right to indulge in my day-dreams and intellectual self-stimulation (I could us a more crass word here) in order to give my energy and presence, to prove to another their worth is not bound up in their knowledge or work, then I miraculously find that somehow, for a fleeting moment, I was alive. I was at peace.


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