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The Mind’s Virtual Reality

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It’s an act so common you probably did it today or have done it many times before. The problem is, when done excessively, it could ruin your life. We are talking about daydreaming.

“I found out the man I thought was my dad was not my dad when I was seven years old… my mom made it sound like it was a secret and no one was supposed to know. It was a heavy burden for me. Many times I would wonder who else knew and what my real dad was like,” says Bongi Ncwane (name changed to protect identity).

All these questions in her mind set off a world of fantasy and pathological daydreaming.

Ncwane says she would spend a lot of time thinking about what life could have been like with a dad.

“My two older sisters had their dad and my two younger sisters have their dad and then there was me. Although my sisters were great and we could share everything, there was this one thing I couldn’t tell anyone.”

To cope, Ncwane says she created another world in her head.

“I started excessive continuous daydreaming. There is a separate life in my head. This world has a mom, a dad and I am the only child,” she says.

READ MORE: Is Hypnotherapy The Answer?

The continuous daydreaming happened for years before she knew there was a problem. One day, she realized that she was spending hours daydreaming. It was eating into her productivity.

“I daydream and it feels real. If something is happening in my head and it’s emotional, I cry in the real life and when happy I would be happy. I realized I couldn’t control the daydreaming. I knew the difference between real life and what was in my head but there was always a need to do it,” says Ncwane.

She was worried and depressed. She says she spent time researching mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but her symptoms didn’t fit any known conditions.

“I would beat myself up about it because everyone daydreams but I couldn’t control mine. It was taking away from my productivity and although doing very well in my career, I wanted to know why there was another me in my head who was growing, although at a slower rate, as I grew,” says Ncwane.

In Israel, 10,000kms from Cape Town where she is, was her answer.

For the first time, about 17 years ago, Dr Eli Somer, a Clinical Professor of Psychology at Israel’s University of Haifa, noticed an unusual mental activity in his trauma patients. Like Ncwane, they craved extensive fantasizing and often spent hours daydreaming.

“This condition is mostly caused by childhood trauma. In my work with trauma patients, I found that some survivors of childhood maltreatment who possess the intense daydreaming trait, are often intensely tempted to dissociate from their uncontrollable mental pain and absorb themselves in a fantasy world, of which they are in full control,” says Somer.

Somer has been conducting research in the field since. In a seminal paper, published in 2002, he presented this condition, which he termed Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD). Exactly like what Ncwane describes, Somer defined it as extensive fantasy that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal or vocational functioning.

“I believe that this type of highly absorptive, fanciful and vivid form of daydreaming requires a special ability. The ability to create an inner world, a mental virtual reality. This trait, often discovered accidentally during childhood, is experienced as highly enjoyable,” says Somer.

It is dangerous. According to Somer in some extreme cases, MD can replace real life.

“People with MD prefer to spend every waking moment of their lives in their inner worlds. In such severe cases, the sufferers display additional mental disorders and are unable to sustain themselves.”

Ncwane and the trauma patients Somer has met are not the only ones talking about this condition. Hundreds of people on social media tell stories of how excessive daydreaming has affected their lives.

“I have lost three jobs in the last 16 months,” says Doreen Wales (name changed to protect identity), who says she can spend up to nine hours a day daydreaming.

“I can’t seem to be able to snap out of it. I have tried to explain to therapists and I have been on various kinds of medication over the past 10 years but nothing seems to work. Unfortunately, this condition seems far-fetched to get the attention it needs. I am happy there is a Facebook community of people going through this and we help each other cope. I have to always try to be active, play music or continue talking to people because once it’s too quiet, I fall into daydreaming,”  says Wales.

READ MORE: ‘Too Many Suffer In Silence’ – The Sad Story Of Mental Illness

In fact, according to Somer, the rewarding properties of MD also explain why it can develop into a maladaptation. He says people with the condition prefer to daydream whenever they can, and do so at the expense of their daily productivity. It can be triggered by evocative music or repetitive physical movement, such as pacing or rocking.

“To my mind, MD is a dissociative absorption that has evolved into mental addiction,” says Somer.

Unlike schizophrenics, according to Somer, people who suffer from MD, differentiate well between fantasy and reality. In a recent study, on the comorbidity of MD, he found no evidence that schizophrenia is even similar to MD.

The problem is, the clinical field of MD is very young. The condition is not yet well recognized, so people like Ncwane and Wales will continue to pay the price until scientific research yields more answers.

For now, the lives in their heads hold more promise than the real world they open their eyes to.

Billionaires

Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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