Fear of Imagination: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

“You have an overactive imagination.” 

This is a judgment people with less imagination make on those with more imagination—usually adults to children. Here is what these adults are really saying:

I don’t understand your imagination. I can’t contain it. Having so much imagination is not normal. So STOP! Squash your imagination. Turn it off. Because it FRIGHTENS me.

In our over-rational world, an abundant imagination is not only considered to be of little value, but also considered to be dangerous.

Children hearing such messages can become frightened of their own imaginations. This fills me with sadness, and a sense of waste. We think the problems of our world will be solved solely by technology. By the exercise of our rational minds. Look around! Can you honestly say that our single-minded reliance on one function of our brain hasn’t led us to the brink of social and ecological disaster?

We need imagination so desperately now. We need it in abundance, streaming out from us like stars to create paths forward we cannot yet see. We need to encourage imagination, not only in children, but in everyone. So turn on imagination everywhere you find it. Fan it into a flame.

But the most important thing we need to do is look into ourselves and ask: Why does imagination frighten me? Why do the imaginations of children frighten me? And more pointedly, how does my own imagination frighten me?

Then we will have a place to begin.


  1. So many wonderful things have been created because a person dared to imagine. Polio vaccines, airplanes, music, books, cures for disease, etc...Imagination isn't dead, it just gets squashed by the over-emphasis on "same-ness" and Not making a scene or standing out. I think our current "cell phone culture" stifles imagination because everyone is more concerned with keeping up with social media in all its forms instead of engaging with the world first hand. Imagination thrives when we PAY ATTENTION.

  2. This is really interesting. I haven't thought of this phrase in quite some time. But I totally agree--imagination is the root of problem solving.


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