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ABSURD as it may seem at first consideration that anyone would solemnly enter into even an unconscious conspiracy to fail, it is a matter of observation that there is hardly one person in a hundred who does not, in some fashion, deliberately cripple and thwart themselves. To understand why this should be so it is necessary to examine for a chapter what may be called, without paradox, the rewards of failure.
The recent widespread interest in all branches of psychology has accustomed us to accepting an idea which, when first offered, seemed laughable: that we are all at some level, engaged most of the time in reverie. We dream either consciously or unconsciously, awake or asleep, of a situation in which we feel we should be happier than we are in real life. Occasionally some childish idea of happiness or success crops up to confuse or hamper us in the business of adult living. Sometimes the dream is of a life of luxurious idleness, the childish Unconscious determined on refusing to leave the safe shelter of the nursery, where all wants were remedied as soon as felt, where warmth and food and love were given freely and unearned. As Emerson wrote, long before we had any technical vocabulary to express that backward turning reverie, long before we knew of "fixations" or of "narcissism" "We do not believe there is any force in today to rival or recreate that beautiful Yesterday. We linger in the ruins of the old tent where once we had bread and shelter." To some extent this is true of all of us, but less true of the happy and successful adult than of others.
At other times, ludicrously enough, the life-wasting reverie is about success: the mild man is a Napoleon of war or finance, the mouse-like woman a siren. If reality never broke in upon such reverie, the dreamer might be happier, self-absorbed in their silent tale-spinning, than if they were to find themselves in a position to realize some part of it. Such reverie is in itself compensation for a life of dull routine or uneventful monotony. But, the world being what it is, the dreamer must live, for part of their time at least, in the cold atmosphere of fact. This is no Land of Cockaigne that we inhabit: roast pigs do not run about crying "Eat me!" Fruit does not fall from the trees into our mouths. However blissful the daydream we entertain, we must wake from it sometimes and struggle with the hard conditions of real living.