Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can Dreaming Be Harmful to Your Mental Health?

A recent and controversial blog post by literary agent Nathan Bransford cautions writers about letting their big dreams turn into expectations that are impossible to reach. He wrote: After dreams are eroded by reality, there’s a hollow place where those dreams used to reside. It doesn't feel worth it anymore, even if you've achieved modest success that you should be extremely proud of, and would have made you happy if your expectations were in check.

While most comments supported his theory, many people disagreed. One woman posted:
Those dreams that get you through should be treated as little prayers, hopes for the future. Write with the intent that you will be famous or on Oprah’s couch. That intent acts as a goal you aspire to reach. I'm a big believer in "shoot for the stars, if you hit the moon it's still way farther than the couch in a suburb surrounded by Stepford wives."

I like to dream big. Do I dream of writing a book that Oprah puts on her favorites’ list? No. But I do write out my dreams and post them on my “intentions” bulletin board. I ask the Universe to support my dreams and aspirations. And I believe we are all worthy of success.

I do understand that Bransford is describing a point where dreams morph into unrealistic expectation. And yes, that can be harmful. But I say let’s err on the side of dreaming. It’s a lot more healthy than setting your sights lower than necessary.

I'll leave you with three quotes on expectation to ponder. What are your thoughts about dreaming big or setting high expectations for yourself?

  • Expectation is the root of all heartache. -- Shakespeare
  • High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. --Charles Kettering
  • We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. --Ivan Illich


  1. I think it's better to aim high and miss than aim low and succeed.

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  3. I am a big dreamer, too. And I think the key to not becoming extremely disillusioned is really found in discovering the link between hope and expectation. And in setting goals that I can actually accomplish. For example, I can't force someone buy something that I make, but I can go ahead and make it and find joy in the making.

  4. I think John Updike had it right when he noted, "Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them."