Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Daydream Believer

In the earlier post Driving on Autopilot, I talked about driving somewhere and then not remembering the trip. What were you actually doing while driving that you don't remember?

If you're like most people, you were probably daydreaming. Here's how Wikipedia describes this mental state:
Daydreaming may take the form of... a train of thought, leading the daydreamer away from being aware of his immediate surroundings, and concentrating more and more on these new directions of thought.
In his writings on creativity and the unconscious, Freud likened daydreaming to the imaginative fantasy constructions of children and to the creative state of the poet. Freud believed that people are capable of such flights of daydreaming fantasy throughout their lives. He called unsatisfied wishes the driving force behind these fantasies.

Over the years daydreaming has gotten a bad name. Freud said that daydreams fall into one of two categories: (1) ambitious wishes, serving to exalt the person creating them, or (2) erotic fantasies (a category to which, he said, women are particularly prone). Many people think of daydreaming as a waste of time and a sign of laziness.

But recent research has led to more enlightened views about daydreams. When children daydream about conquering the world or otherwise triumphing over adversity, they are imaginatively trying out various ways of existing and getting along in the world. We adults continue to do the same thing. Haven't we all daydreamed about "This is what I SHOULD have said (or done) when So-and-So insulted me. . . ."? In those instances we're imaginatively rehearsing the alternative behavior so that the next time a similar situation arises, we'll be ready. Daydreams like this also help to dissipate some of the negative emotions (anger, hurt, humiliation) we may be feeling from the incident.

So the automatic thinking that occasionally allows us to drive on autopilot isn't always bad. Sometimes it can even serve a positive, healthy function.

© 2007 by Mary Daniels Brown

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