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Psychology: Imaginary friends

Many children have imaginary friends to help them cope with the world they live in. Often their imaginary friends help them cope with loneliness. Children play and that is about imagining all kinds of things. They have tea parties with imaginary tea, imaginary sugar, imaginary milk and imaginary friends.

Children will look out of the window and daydream at school, much to the annoyance of the teacher who is droning on about the importance of long hand division or explaining that Van Gogh liked to paint sunflowers. Children want to be more creative and this tendency to daydream continues into adult life, but then we call it creativity.

We can imagine all kinds of scenarios to help us become creative. We might start with a tower made out of matchsticks, we might even build it. That might be the beginning of a journey that allows us to create a real one made from steel and concrete. Big ideas tend to be made up of lots of small ideas and thoughts. We often make a list of the ideas and scribble then down on a note pad and then try to organise them into some sort of order so they make more sense. This is being creative. For some people the computer screen can take the place of the note pad and be the medium for recording ideas.

Writers will start with a sentence that will be expanded into a paragraph. Then more paragraphs are added until they have a story. That might be short or it might become a text book or novel. Artists begin with a drawing, just a draft that they then build on, using the talent that comes from repetitive practice gives them the experience to be able to draw all the shapes involved.  We start with simple ideas and then we add the detail. A simple drawing can become a complex work of art.

Sometimes we use analogies to be creative. We imagine leading a group of children through woodland. We would have to lead the way, but we would also have to organise the children and make sure no one was left behind. The younger children would naturally walk slower and tend to be the ones left behind. We might think it was a good idea to have the oldest or most responsible child to bring up the rear to prevent stragglers getting left behind. We might make good use of the skills of the older children, while protecting the most vulnerable ones. In this analogy we see what is required to be a good leader and identify leadership skills. The ‘leader’ who tells people the way rather than showing them the way, isn’t really leading. The leader who  shows the way to the most able while not safeguarding and helping the most vulnerable is no leader at all.

We can learn by listening and observing our environment. We can also learn by imagining what might be, by being creative. This process of childish daydreaming produces new designs, amazing works of art, innovation and design.

What do you daydream about? Please share you thoughts in the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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