Imagination can do wonders to our world. The developments around us – the technologies, infrastructures, modern amenities etc. – were once thought of and imagined by their inventors and creators before they became a reality. We start our creative thinking as little children. Creative imagination can do great things for the children of the world and their developing minds. It can lead to a more relaxed and energetic learning, a good foundation for creative activities, and it’s a good way to develop their ability to tell stories and narrate their experiences. When creative imagination is developed under supportive and appropriate guidance, it can benefit the owner of the creative imagination by building their confidence to transform their imaginations to reality. But there can be downsides to creative imagination as well. When unsupervised and unguided, creative imagination can be disruptive to daily tasks and daily living. Let me touch upon the positive and negative effects of creative imagination.
Positive effects of creative imagination
Most psychologists agree that imagination is necessary for considering and envisioning reality. When you are told to think about a certain place or point in time such as the American Civil War, the life of a cowboy, or taking a roller coaster ride in an amusement park, you are most likely to use your imagination. You will begin to picture out the barrage of muskets and guns from both sides of the belligerents, or picture yourself riding a horse in your cowboy getup and hat as you lead scores of cattle back to the ranch, or feel the imagined excitement of going up, down and around the railways in a roller coaster ride. We use the information we gathered and stored in our memories to make images of these within our minds.
Children are very active with their use of imagination in their day-to-day activities: like in roleplaying and in games. Imagination helps them to understand and have a vague idea of the point of view of others and they therefor develop their skill of social understanding. Imaginary friends can be beneficial to children in times when their parents or a responsible adult is not around. They may feel less scared and safer when being alone or when in dark places because they have their imaginary friend to accompany them and help them.
Imagination is inherent in all of us and can be used in aspects of life and society. Science, technology, art, fashion and entertainment are but a few of the endeavors that are influenced by imagination. Even if the first two rely on accurate measurements and information, no concept or theory could have been formed without first being curious and imaginative about the concept or theory.
Negative effects of creative imagination
Creative imagination, if left unchecked, can go haywire and become disruptive to daily life. It can lead to unhealthy fantasies, frequent escapism and loss of touch with reality. Suicide bombers have these unhealthy behaviors in thought. Several psychological or mental conditions are also associated with the negative effects of creative imagination. Many researchers believe that people who are more creative and imaginative are more prone to the condition called Nightmare Disorder. Simply defined, a nightmare disorder is characterized by the occurrence of frequent nightmares during which the sleeper feels threatened and frightened. Statistically, 35-45% of children aged 2–18 have sleep disorders, including nightmare disorder (10-50% of the 35-45%). Many cases of these nightmares in children are associated with psychiatric illness, implying that an overactive imagination is the reason for nightmares, especially since children have more active imaginations than adults.
Does all this mean we need less imagination? Hardly. The world we know today would not be possible if our forefathers were not imaginative. As mentioned earlier, appropriate guidance, support and development of creative imagination are key to developing brilliant and creative minds – minds that can not only change the world but also improve it. Let’s help put a good support in place for these children who have been traumatized. The digital world makes this doable.