The Effect of Imaginary Companions and Daydreaming on Wellbeing

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

In 1921, Carl Jung introduced the terms introversion and extraversion to distinguish the way people interact with their surroundings. Whereas extraverts’ interests and energy are drawn towards the outer world of people and things, introverts tend to prefer the internal world of their internal thoughts and feelings. However, in Western contemporary society values associated with extraversion such as being charismatic, outgoing, and talkative are often favoured over the quiet nature of introversion (Lawn, Slemp, & Vella-Brodrick, 2019). The reason for this is that action rather than contemplation integrates better in a material and capitalist world which strives for achievement and growth. With this in mind, introversion is frequently seen as a disadvantage or something that one needs to overcome in order to live a happy and successful life. All things considered, societies perception of a good life is biased towards extraversion.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

Correspondingly, research finds that of all personality traits extraversion is most strongly correlated with subjective wellbeing (Steel, Schmidt, & Schultz, 2008). In fact, the Five Factor Model by McCrae and Costa (1987) lists Positive Emotions as a subcategory of extraversion, making extraversion almost indistinguishable from subjective wellbeing. However, the measurement of positive affect includes mostly activated feelings such as excitement, or alertness which is favoured by high approach people, such as extraverts, as compared to introverts (Zelenski, Sobocko, & Whelan, 2014). This idea is supported by Mitte and Kämpfe’s (2008) findings which reveal that the relation between extraversion and positive affect is stronger for aroused states than for lower arousal states. Consequently, if happiness is defined solely by activated aroused feelings, introverts might not even want to be happy. Therefore, critics suggest that common wellbeing and happiness measures are biased towards extraversion. In sum, more refined research suggests that the measurement of positive affect is biased towards extraversion indicating that the association between extraversion and wellbeing has to be reconsidered.

This is further supported by Hills and Argyles (2001) findings which demonstrate that happy introverts exist. Of 133 people who reported to experience high subjective wellbeing, 33% were introverts (Hills &Argyle, 2001). In attempt to find out more about the happiness of introverts, Jacques-Hamilton, Sun, and Smillie (2019) tested whether people’s well-being could be increased by telling participants to act in a more extraverted manner across a one-week interval. However, their results indicate increased tiredness, decreased feelings of authenticity, and experience of negative emotions over the course of the experiment. The researchers conclude that acting out of character is not a suitable solution to increase introverts’ happiness. By all means, it has been investigated that introverts who felt comfortable with their introversion, as opposed to those who wanted to be more extraverted, not only experience higher levels of authenticity but show a higher level of well-being (Lawn, Slemp, & Vella-Brodrick, 2018). Overall, acting extraverted does not serve as the only way suited for everyone to experience happiness which suggests that there might be alternative paths to happiness since happy introverts exist.

In order to find out about the conditions under which introverts can achieve happiness, Cabello and Fernandez-Berrocal (2015) demonstrated that introverts were happier if their social relationships were of high quality as well as if their emotion regulation ability was high. Correspondingly, Smutte and Ryff (1997) suggest that broadening the different ways someone can achieve well-being allows a wider range of personality traits possibly associated with wellbeing to be recognized. For instance, creative openness, a trait related to daydreaming, fantasy, and feelings, accounts for greater personal growth and engagement which is a subcategory of well-being. With this in mind, coping mechanisms related to introversion such as daydreaming were investigated. It was found that people use positive constructive daydreaming as an on-going source of pleasure (McMillan, Kaufman, & Singer, 2013). Taken together, introverts might use a different pathway to reach their wellbeing; Namely, they are most likely to experience positive affect if they allow themselves to spend time in their heads in a creatively open fashion, and if the quality of their social relationships as well as their emotional regulation ability is high.

Surprisingly, the conditions ideal for introverts to life a happy life also seem to be nourishing soil for children to invent an imaginary friend. Imaginary friends are invisible individuals whose presence exists over a period of time and includes its own personality and history in children’s pretend play (Taylor, Cartwright, & Carlson, 1993). In particular, current research shows that children need unstructured time alone to be able to invent imaginary companions (Kennedy-Moore, 2013). Within that unstructured time, children with imaginary companions were found to be more absorbed in imaginative life (Kidd, Rogers, & Rogers, 2010) and were more likely to have vivid daydreams (Bouldin, 2006) than children who did not have an imaginary friend. Additionally, this symbolic enactment of social relationships might afford opportunities to experience not just social situations but all kinds of emotions in a risk-free way (Gleason, 2017). Hence, imaginary companions can help children cope with fears, explore ideas, or gain a sense of competence through learning from or taking care of the imaginary companion (Kennedy-Moore, 2013). Accordingly, having an imaginary companion was associated with the development of better coping strategies, the ability to entertain oneself as well as more positive adjustment in childhood and adolescence (Taylor, Hulette, & Dishion, 2010; Lascala, 2019). Moreover, imaginary companions provide a forum for psychological distance that enable young children to engage in processes such as negotiation and cooperation, which are needed for successful social adaptation (Carlson & Davis, 2005). Having an imaginary companion has also been positively related to children’s ability to process emotionally charged information and executive function (White & Carlson, 2016), a skill set including self-control and mental flexibility that has implications for successful functioning in relationships. All in all, children with imaginary companions are more likely to benefit from the ability to focus on their imaginative inner world, and from creating meaningful relationships through the use of better emotion regulation as well as through the development of adaptive social strategies.

So far, research on imaginary companions mostly focused on the impact having an imaginary companion has on child’s skills related to interacting with others instead children’s personal characteristics. Generally, investigations reveal that children who had an imaginary companion profit from elevated skills in emotion regulation and increased social functioning (Taylor, Hulette, & Dishion, 2010). These findings, however, provide no insight into their personal affective experience. Apart from that, research concerning positive affectivity in introversion yields ambiguous results that require further attention in order to examine introverts’ potential unconventional ways to achieve a higher level of well-being. Conversely to the findings of Zelenski, Sobocko, and Whelan, (2014) which demonstrated a positive correlation between introversion and negative affect, more refined research assumes that introverts reach high levels of psychological well-being if they allow themselves to spend time in their heads, and if the quality of their social relationships as well as their emotional regulation ability is high (Cabello & Fernandez-Berrocal, 2015). As has been noted above, research into children who had imaginary companions points out that even these children exceed others in terms of emotion regulation and social functioning. Correspondingly, allowing unstructured alone time, which translates to giving the opportunity to spend time in one’s own head, operates as a requirement for the creation of an imaginary companion in the first place. All things considered, the effects of having an imaginary companion, namely increased ability in emotional as well as social functioning, cover the requirements needed to be fulfilled for an introvert to experience a high amount of positive emotions. Thus, this study aims to answer the question: To what extent are having had an imaginary friend in childhood as well as being introverted associated with adults’ levels of psychological wellbeing?

It is important to realize that further research into the well-being of introverts could help to redefine the concept of happiness so that measures of positive affect covers aspects which do not rely exclusively on the level of activation. In like manner, redefining happiness could contribute to resolve the cultural bias towards extroversion. In capitalist societies, extraverted characteristics are often seen as an advantage, while introverted characteristics are portrayed as an obstacle that keeps people from succeeding in life (Lawn, Slemp, & Vella-Brodrick, 2019). As a result of social desirability, introverts are more likely to act extroverted causing feelings of inauthenticity and low levels of self-acceptance, which is a requirement for introverts to increase positive emotional experience. In the long run, the self-acceptance and thus the experience of positive affect of introverts could be facilitated through further research into unconventional ways to achieve happiness. Next to that, study serves to obtain deeper insight in the phenomenon of imaginary companions. With regard to that, increased knowledge in this field of research might enable parents to better understand their children and encourage them to unfold their fantasy without any judgement. In short, information obtained from this study could potentially help make introverts feel accepted, thereby elevating their psychological wellbeing, and it could promote an open and supportive contact of parents with their children who have an imaginary companion.

For the purpose of finding out about psychological wellbeing of introverts who had an imaginary companion in their childhood, a link with a survey was published on SONA and distributed on social media platforms. Thus, participants could take part in the study online through answering questionnaires which gather information about the participants personality facet of introversion, childhood experiences with imaginary companions, and their psychological wellbeing.

Due to the superiority in emotional as well as social functioning that children with imaginary companions exhibit, it can be suggested that having had an imaginary companion serves as a foundation for introverts to increase their psychological wellbeing. Based on that, it is hypothesized that having had an imaginary companion in the past and being introverted is related to high levels of wellbeing. Therefore, this study predicts that the presence of an imaginary companion in childhood and low scores on the personality trait extraversion are associated with high scores on wellbeing. 

Get quality help now

Dr. Diane

Verified writer

Proficient in: Developmental Psychology, Individual and Society

4.9 (280 reviews)
“She understood my main topic well and follow the instruction accordingly. She finished the paper in a timely manner! I would definitely hire her again! ”

+75 relevant experts are online

More Identity Imagination Related Essays

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.