Reading the news headlines recently, i did not flinch or gasp or even open my eyes wider when I saw that those two Northwest Airlines pilots had flown 150 miles past their appointed runway… The only thing that amazed me about it all was that they did not state that they had been daydreaming and got distracted… Or snoozed off. Instead they asserted that they were caught up in doing business on their laptop computers and at one stage complained they had been arguing.
Hmmm… (Rubs chin)
I was amazed because daydreaming is often blamed for all kinds of occasions when we have ‘wandered off’ and been a bit of a space cadet for a few moments or more.
I have written before about being in a conversation with 3 men at a business breakfast several years ago and suddenly realised that all three were staring at me expectantly… I had been asked a question and had no idea what it was or who had asked it!
There was even another occasion whereby I “came to” on the motorway driving to Newbury and realised I was in Oxford… “Where the hell did Newbury go?!”
Lots of people have experienced the same thing. So I was not surprised that the pilots had overshot that distance.
This is, however, one of the ways in which daydreaming gets a bit of bad publicity… Daydreaming gets associated with being out of control, or being the occupation of air-heads… Yet I think of it as a beautifully delicious thing to do.
Despite me just loving the state of daydreaming, there is more to it… There are benefits too… One of the reasons we can get away with daydreaming so frequently and why we can experience its many benefits is that it enhances creative problem solving, idea generation, conceptualising and I am delighted to say that the daydreaming mind seems to have a built-in “capacity for interruption,” according to researcher and psychologist Dr. Jerome Singer.
You’ve seen it, you’ve experienced it… This mechanism lets us shift from inner to outer worlds with lightning speed as some external event punctures that daydream, like someone beeping their car horn, a song coming on the radio or the screaming pleas of air traffic controllers….
It’s as if the brain has made some bargain–the risk of an occasional missed cue (the exit sign) for the extra brain power we get via daydreaming.
We can manage the external world and daydream at the same time. To do that you have to know what you can get away with. Some part of the brain has to know. This idea is often used (though in slightly different terms) to illustrate the metaphor of conscious and unconscious functioning in hypnosis… And many people liken hypnosis and self-hypnosis to the state of daydreaming.
On the flip side of this discussion, it is accurate to say that the deeper we are in a state of concentration (the pilots working on their laptops) or a state of flow (an artist working on a painting), or me with my nose to the keyboard writing a blog entry for you…. the harder it is to respond reflexively to interruptions.
So what I am suggesting here today is that it’s probably safer to lapse into a daydream while driving than to become heavily focused on a conversation or anything else that makes it hard for us to shift mental gears.
Daydreaming plays another role during the performance of mundane tasks besides letting us investigate multiple goals and ideas. It seems counterintuitive, but daydreaming actually helps keep us awake and reasonably alert. Studies have shown that when subjects have to keep their mind focused on a boring task – say, monitoring a security camera or long-distance driving – they become drowsier faster than when they’re allowed to let their minds wander.
You’ve probably experienced something similar while driving or sitting in on some endless meeting; if you didn’t have mental scenarios to engage you, you would have been asleep at the wheel a long time ago. So a little mind wandering is not a bad thing. It’s a very human thing–a built-in exit ramp to creativity. While daydreaming, we can explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before–all while commuting to and from work…
You can then of course learn how to utilise those states even better if you learn to use self-hypnosis skills… I know a good author on that subject, his books, seminars and audio programmes on learning how to use self-hypnosis are second to none… I’ll recall his name and let you know… have a marvellous weekend. 🙂