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Dream Zappers Part II: Why They Zap, Squash & Belittle Your Aspirations

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

Remember our good friend the Dream Zapper (DZ)?

I first wrote about Dream Zappers in a guest post over at Corbett Barr's Free Pursuits. (By the way, in case you're interested, he's just released an incredibly comprehensive course on affiliate marketing for bloggers – I know many of you are getting into blogging right now, so I thought I'd mention it.)

We've all encountered Dream Zappers before; they're the ones jumping up and down to squish, squash and stomp all over your ideas & aspirations, usually accompanied by the likes of, “You're being unrealistic,” or my personal favorite, “You'll have to join the real world sometime.”

Big, giant menacing GRRR face.

In the post, I discussed the importance of defending your dreams, despite traditional advice that advocates not sinking to that person's level, not taking it personally, and recognizing that it's not you, it's them.

And while I stand by that assertion, the truth of the matter is that it truly is them.  But even if we consciously know that, sometimes it still gets under our skin, nagging at our self-esteem and poking little holes in our confidence, because we just can't figure out why. Why are DZ's zapping in the first place?  What's the deal, already?  Whatever happened to live and let live, mon?  Can we get a little Bob Marley up in here?

It's All Your Fault

I'll tell you what happened.

What happened…was you.

To a Dream Zapper, you are actually the offending party.  Even though you aren't outright attacking a DZ's dreams, you're indirectly doing so simply by existing.  The fact that you're sitting there all inspired and hopeful with your zest for life and your bucketfuls of ambitions is nauseating to them, because it forces them to question their own realities.  And in being forced to question themselves, they may not like the conclusions that are drawn.

And that's really freaking uncomfortable. (Tissue, anyone?)

It's so uncomfortable, as a matter of fact, that our brains have actually adapted and developed a mechanism designed specifically to reduce any unpleasant psychological discomfort that's experienced.  Know what that's called?

The fine human art of rationalization.

Rationalization occurs as a necessary mental function to avoid cognitive dissonance–two conflicting ideas in our minds–in order to protect our ego and maintain our self-image.  (Dammit, Freud.)  In order to avoid anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment or stress, people will bend over backward and resort to irrationality and–you guessed it–ridicule.  You, with your ideas, are threatening the entire fabric of their consciousness.  And they no like-ey that.  You're stressing them out, mon!

So in order to reduce that stress, they resort to rationalizing and justifying their own behavior, declaring it smarter, wiser, more realistic than yours.  Conflicting ideas cause people to self-justify–not necessarily rationally–in order to regain psychological balance.

In other words, they're Dream Zapping you in order to maintain their own sanity.

Rationalizations In Action

Normally, we tend to assume that a person's actions (minimizing your ideas) are guided by their opinions (you're wrong and are doomed to fail), but in actuality, a person's actions are guided more by his/her rationalizations that take place in order to preserve his/her integrity, self-image and world view.

Want proof?

A study of people who were processing conflicting information about a favorite politician showed that the reasoning areas of the brain actually shut down. Their brains simply stopped processing information that was inconsistent with the views they held about the politician.

Wild, eh?

To give an everyday example that you can likely relate to, if we believe ourselves to be fundamentally good people, the few times when we are hurtful to another person will cause dissonance, or tension, in our minds because good people don't hurt other people.

In order to relieve the stress that this mental conflict causes, we rationalize the hurtful behavior by deciding that the other person deserved it or somehow forced us into that hurtful behavior.  And we've all been guilty of this little mental game, haven't we?

Relative to what I discuss here at TMFproject, if someone has gone through their entire life up to this point believing that the standard American work-life model is the ideal–go to school, go to college, get a job, get a mate, get a house with a yard, get kids, etc.–and then someone comes along and says, “Pshhh!  That's ludicrous! I'm going to do things this other way, that person's mind will do everything it can to prove you wrong.

In the name of self-image and personal integrity, they won't want to believe that.  So instead, they rationalize their own decisions and beliefs in any way they can to avoid that mental discomfort–even if that includes putting you down for yours.

We avoid mental anguish at all costs; our convictions about who we are and what we believe carry us through life, and we constantly interpret things that happen to us through the filter of those core beliefs.

When they are violated–for example, by you and your ideas–it causes anxiety that must. be. reduced.


See what I mean?  Told you it was them.  What's one to do?  Frankly, there's not a whole lot that can be done, except understand that the reason you're getting zapped is independent of the validity of your decisions; the issue is not whether your decisions are sound, but rather how those decisions impact others' egos.  And, wouldn't it be a little silly to make decisions based on someone elses' psyche?  You've got to look out for your own.

It also never hurts to gain validation and reassert your sanity by reading about others who have taken the unconventional path, and have been successful at doing so.

My personal recommendation would be to check out the work of:

  • Karol Gajda – A Polish born vegan atheist whose goal is to help 100 people receive ridiculously extraordinary freedom in life via online business & travel.  He's cute, too.
  • Nomadic Matt – Another good-looking 20-something who has been traveling since 2005, and makes over $3,000 a month travel blogging.  He certainly didn't let the Dream Zappers make any headway.
  • Adam Baker – A young family man with a wife & child who set off to sell all of their crap, find financial freedom and be able to go, live, work, play, WHATEVER…wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

So the next time a Dream Zapper shows up in your ‘hood, shaking their fists and showing their fangs, take heart in knowing that by letting them grumble, you're saving them from a potential mental breakdown, in which case…

…that makes you a hero.

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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