The Nature of Fantasy

Summary
How "fantasy mind" works, and how to deal with it.

Eric Armstrong
TreeLight.com/essays

I recently indulged a sexual fantasy. What I discovered was that, instead of satisfying whatever inner need it was that drove me, it intensified the fantasy to the point that it began to occupy every waking moment.

That experience taught me that a fantasy is born from some experience that exposes 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 bullys in my life. I never acted on those fantasies and, in time, I outgrew them -- going to college, becoming a working professional, and living in the adult world, where I no longer had a need to protect myself.

When I saw how acting on a fantasy only made it stronger, I understood those bullys for the first time since my childhood.

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 looked 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 that 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), that reduces the intensity of the fantasy.

But the real key is tracking the fantasy to its source and identifying the real need. I don't pretend to having all the answers, at this point. But I have a much better insight into the process.

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