How “fantasy mind” works, and how to deal with it.
Originally published 2002
The problem with indulging a fantasy, and “living it” — however temporarily — is that, instead of satisfying whatever inner need it was that drives you, it intensifies the fantasy to the point that it begins to occupy every waking moment.
It turns out that a fantasy is born from some experience that creates an inner need — but that, because the experience is long gone, “living” the fantasy cannot supply what it was you needed, at the time you needed it!
Reflecting on the experience brought me back to my childhood, when I used to fantasize about being strong and beating up the bullies in my life. I never acted on those fantasies and, in time, I outgrew them. I went to college, became a working professional, and lived in the adult world, where I no longer had a need to protect myself. (And I became an athlete, as well.)
But once I realized that acting on a fantasy only makes it stronger, I understood those bullies for the very first time.
They, too, had been hurt. Someone larger and stronger, possibly a parent, had bullied them, and they had started fantasizing about being big and strong, able to strike back and defend themselves.
At some point, they chose someone smaller and weaker to act out their fantasy. But it didn’t really satisfy the need they had at the time the fantasy was formed — the need to defend themselves.
It gave them some kind of satisfaction. It was enjoyable in its own way. But it stopped short of fulfilling their real need. Instead, it made the fantasy that much stronger.
The cycle looks like this:
Hurt --> Fantasy --> Action --+ ^ | +-----------------+
The problem here is that the feedback arrow does not reach all the way back to the original hurt. It only goes back as far as the fantasy, reinforcing it and making it stronger.
There is the feeling that, maybe if one had more, then it might be enough. But it never can be enough, really. Because the inner need is not addressed. That is what strengthens the fantasy, making it more dominant until you can’t stop thinking about it.
The key to dealing with fantasy, then, is to uncover the real inner need that it depends on. When the real need is met, the fantasy evaporates.
Changing the environment is helpful, too. When the inner need is not continuously stimulated (for example, by living in a home with a battering parent), the intensity of the fantasy is reduced, until it can eventually fade away.
But the real key is tracking the fantasy to its source and identifying the real need.
For that purpose, Ipsalu Tantra‘s intention dialog process is outstanding. In that process, you focus on the body sensations that you experience when you’re (angry, hurt, upset, whatever). That sensation leads to memories, which in turn lead to deeper sensations. As you go deeper into it, you’re encouraged to be with it, and breathe into it.
It can be uncomfortable. But if you dig in and really experience the sensations, you find yourself re-living the painful experience that caused the hurt. And if you do that while being fully aware, so you are fully conscious and witnessing the events, a magical thing happens: The internal need is identified, and the unconscious drive that kept it in place loses its hold on you.
The need will still be there, of course. But now you’re aware of it, and can begin to consciously fill the void. More importantly, you are no longer driven by a totally unconscious, automatic behavior pattern.
It’s a wonderful thing.
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