From Pluralpedia, the collaborative plurality dictionary
paracosm (n.)
Synonymsworldplay, paracosmic fantasizing
CoinerBen Vincent
OriginPsychiatric term

A paracosm is a detailed imaginary world that an individual (or group of individuals) create, and is often inhabited with various characters, or paras. Paracosms commonly have their own geography, language(s), cultures, or other features. They are thought to begin in childhood, and can last into adulthood as it increases in complexity and richness. There is typically a strong relationship between the creator(s) and the paracosms & its inhabitants; the paracosm may become more appealing than the outside world in cases of trauma, stress, or other hardships, and that dependence can cause dysfunction in cases Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder.

Paracosm comes from the roots para, or beyond, outside, or an altered version of, and cosm, meaning universe or world[1]. One who creates a paracosm may be called a "paracosmist".

Paracosms are frequently associated with writers and other kinds of artists, whose creations describe events, time periods, or other elements of their paracosms. Examples include J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, the Brontë sisters' fantasy worlds[2], and Terry Pratchet's Discworld series[3].

History[edit | edit source]

While the concept of a private, consistent imaginary world had been described earlier, the term paracosm was created by Ben Vincent, while participating in a survey conducted on the subject in the late 1970s by BBC researcher Robert Silvey. Psychologist Stephen A. MacKeith used the results of the survey, and further expanded upon them in the paper Paracosms And The Development Of Fantasy In Childhood in 1984[4]. He laid out 4 main criteria of a paracosm:

  • The creator distinguishes clearly between what they have imagined and what really exists;
  • Their interest in their paracosm is sustained over an appreciable length of time;
  • They take pride in their paracosm being systematized & complex, and attaches importance to its being internally consistent;
  • Their paracosm is important to them and 'matters' in their life.

Research has continued into the subject of paracosms, daydreaming & fantasy pronenesss, childhood imagination, and maladaptive forms of these.

Related Terms[edit | edit source]

There is a definite overlap between the phenomena of paracosms & plurality; the idea of an "internal world" with multiple important figures that often originates in childhood bridges the two, with the main difference being the amount of autonomy & executive control that paras lack but alters possess. Paragenic systems have daydreaming as their origin.

Dreamway systems are a specific type of gateway where the other worlds connected to the main headspace is a paracosm(s). Headspaces may sometimes be paracosms, or share common attributes with them, seen in intercosms and in paratien systems.

Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder, neuronarration, and Immersive Daydreaming all center paracosms as a main part of the phenomena.

Paras are the characters that live in the paracosm, and a parame/paraself is the point of view or creator-insert character.

References[edit | edit source]