Subscribe by Email

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: Daydreaming and Fantasy by Jerome Singer

*My book reviews are not like my other blog posts in that they are a brain-dump rather than a well-formulated essay. They are my notes [for me] from a recent book I finished. In this book review I use quotation marks to separate what the author says from my sarcastic response to his ideas. These are not actual quotes; they are summaries. Except that first one, that is an actual quote.*

The author tries to explore fantasy... but he still doesn't get the implications of what he is saying.

Singer says, "In almost all children between the ages of one and a half and three, a great deal of encouragement from adults... is apparently necessary to sustain a tendency toward sociodramatic play."

And there you have it--sociodramatic play is NOT natural, it is a learned behavior that children won't do [very much of] unless they see adults doing it.

The author believes it is therefore super important for adults to teach children how to play pretend because:

"The spontaneous make-believe play of normal children serves as a practice of what the children deem to be survival skills." You must read your children stories of knights and princesses so they can be properly prepared for life.

"More importantly, fantasy play is a great way for children to learn and practice the different roles and societal scripts they will have one day." Yay! Let us all rehearse our parts so we know them well! We don't need to be present or in touch with ourselves or authentic at all! Our children will be sooooo much happier and more confident if they can just step into these prewritten scripts and know what to do! (And to be clear, he literally says that, that children will be more confident if they know their roles/scripts.)

"It is also very important to teach children these fantasy skills because daydreaming helps people get through situations that would be boring or miserable otherwise, like school or business meetings." The solution is not to remove yourself from boring situations or have authentic communications about your needs. The solution is to "self-regulate through daydream"!

"Daydreaming is an especially important skill if you are a slave. Makes the slavery much more tolerable. Science has shown over and over again that the more controlled a person's life is, the more helpful it is to fantasize a lot." Fantasize about freedom and power. Not fight for your freedom, mind you. Note that high schoolers daydream a lot and then very little once they get to college. Fantasy is the best way for older children i.e. teenagers to tolerate their lengthened childhoods.

"Daydreaming is The Way to survive a concentration camp." This one I totally agree with BUT I don't think one needs to practice this ahead of time just in case one ends up in a concentration camp.

"Fantasy is the best way to shift your mood, again, self-regulation." Say someone says something that upsets you. Don't talk to them about it! And especially don't fight! Don't ask for empathy from a friend or even give yourself empathy. Instead, if you feel angry, retreat into your imagination for a while until you feel better. Better yet, numb out in someone else's imagination by watching TV!

"Vicariously living through famous people is a great way to tolerate your own life." Not to change your own life, of course, or get more of your needs met. But just to escape it for a while. Because actually liking your life is not realistic.

"Powerless people who spend a lot of time fantasizing about being powerful will more easily accept leaders with too much power--the leader becomes the embodiment of their fantasy."

"Fantasy is a great way to deal with loneliness!" Not making friends, of course, staying home and living in a fantasy.

And other interesting things from this book:

-65% of women are in a fantasy while they are having sex i.e. they are not present.

-When the author was a child television was not a part of his life, so in his fantasies he was a baseball player or a senator. Todays children fantasize about being batman and superman. The author isn't sure if this is as useful but he is glad they are role-playing!

-Daydreaming can be useful to rehearse future actions, make us realize we hate our lives, and help us find other solutions for certain situations.

-Many daydreams are just cognitive processing, our brains storing and organizing connections. It is a way children try to make sense of the world.

-Often people will feel depressed after fantasizing. Because their real lives suck.

-Fantasizing is one way we rewrite negative experiences. This is why we tell our friends about the crappy thing that happened to us. Because after we have gotten enough empathy or been heard the experience has been rewritten in our memory so it is not as painful. "If you don't have friends, fantasize!"


  1. I think I get your criticism of the book but it was hard to tell what your point was because the sarcasm was thick. I couldn't tell when you were quoting the author versus sarcastically imitating him because his actual ideas are so silly themselves.

  2. Thanks Taylor, you're totally right... I write the book reviews for me and really I shouldn't post them on the blog unless they are in good enough shape to be understood. Ugh.