Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review - Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them

One thing that I really enjoyed about this book is the way Marjorie Taylor focused on dispelling some of the more negative aspects of imaginary friends. Just because a child creates an imaginary friend, does not mean they are lonely or there is something wrong in their developmental cycle. This was the mainstream belief until quite recently. Then, societies perception changed and suddenly, imaginary companions were viewed with prestige. Studies have shown however that having an imaginary friend does not mean that a child is special or is showing great signs of genius. These children aren't even particularly more creative when they are older when compared to other children. You know what a child having an imaginary friend does show? It shows that a child is a child. End. Of. Story.

Children create because they can. The ones who do not create an imaginary friend don't have an disadvantage or advantage over the ones that do. Their interest just lie elsewhere. Furthermore, it has been suggested that due to parental disapproval, most children don't even let on that they do have an imaginary companion.

Yes yes. Of course there are always the exceptions to the rules and there are always children who are going to create imaginary friends to fulfill some sort of need they are not getting or to play out a desire or even to manifest a problem into a form they can understand. But those are the stories we hear about. They are not necessarily the norms.

In my daydreams I was training myself to be a fool; in mapping and chronicling Animal-Land I was training myself to be a novelist.”
                               ~C.S Lewis on his imaginary world he used to play in as a child.

This book originally interested me due to its topic. In my own story (Dear God let it be published and finally done with one day) I write about imaginary friends and what happens to them when children stop believing they exist. My premises falls into one of the harsher views of the imagination where one little girl couldn't distinguish reality and fantasy quick enough and so her parents decided to put a stop to it. While reading Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them, I must admit that I was a little horror stricken to find out that this scenario, doctors, priests and all, isn't a far stretch. I would like to note, however, that I do make the distinction in the story that this is one case and not an all encompassing view. Her friend, in fact, navigated this world and the imaginary one quite easily.
But where does that imaginary friend go when the child stops seeing them? Often times, kids let go of these companions without much thought and the companion itself is then deduced to a memory that may be recalled every once in a while. This, is one of the many subject that I try to touch on in my novel. So of course I needed to pick up this book because lets face it, Google search can only give you so much. Plus, most sights about imaginary friends out there were starting to make me sick seeing as it was mostly message boards about concerned parents not knowing what to do with the idea that their child was talking to something they couldn't see.

That's another good point this book makes. Children often times know that what they are doing is make believe. They can distinguish between reality and fantasy. They just continue to play in the fantasy world long past the point of comfort for some parents. It's natural. It's fun. And they are entertaining themselves in a way that doesn't include the acid trips that pass as children's television these days.

Seriously. What the hell is that?

Upon reading this book, I didn't necessarily gain new information but it was nice to hear about the studies done in order to gain some sort of basis for this phenomenon that we often see within children. The chapters that most interested me were the ones on older children or adults having imaginary friends. There was even a small section about writers and how by the definition of an imaginary companion, most writers fall under the category of having one. As someone who writes, I constantly feel like my characters are doing or saying things that I don't necessarily plan for them. Yes, a majority of my story is a flimsy little idea in my head but I never solidify anything because I have learned over the years that you have to leave room for your characters to tell their story. So, when my characters go off and say or do things that I am adamantly against, or surprise me in ways that I didn't know possible, I am technically participating in an imaginary friend type relationship. The irony of this does not escape me seeing as the main character of this story is based on my imaginary companion as a child.

There are so many good things about this book that I don't even know what to cover and what not to cover. I would love to just swoon over all the points that the author makes and relate to you everything Taylor covers or share the passages that I underlined (or in the cases where parents think their child was talking to Satan, got genuinely mad at) but then there would be no point in you reading the book itself.

If you are interested in psychology, read this book. If you are interested in imaginary friends, read this book. If you are a parent, please please please read this book. It is informative and endlessly fascinating and the little antidotes that the children relay to the interviewer are often times priceless.

Did anyone else have an imaginary friend as a kid? Comment down here or share your post on my Facebook page. I'm always looking for new stories in order to further enhance the Imaginaries in my own novel.

To see what else I'm reading this month and for more reviews, go here;
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  1. I had an imaginary friend as a child. We had a blast going on adventures.

    1. I think you'd like parts of this book then. They definitely go into little kids and their adventures.