Fantasy is a normal function of our mind.
Do you feel better now?
It’s no secret that everyone’s brain is working overtime these days. Even before covid hit last year, we were all exhausted. And now, we have taken exhaustion to a whole new level.
The stuff you are responsible for now include some of the following:
- Helping your school-age children navigate school online
- Adapting to living with college-age children again after they were away at school
- Performing your own work remotely
- Caring for aging relatives either in your home or elsewhere
- Managing life apart from friends and loved ones
Humans are pretty good at adapting to all sorts of things. Notice I didn’t say that we like adapting to them though. Especially in the beginning of all this, many people reported that they were experiencing more vivid dreams. Some of the dreams made even less sense than usual.
It is another piece of the mysterious human brain that’s fascinating. That this weird looking organ inside our skull can affect us so much is mind-blowing.
Dreams typically happen while we are sleeping and we have little control over them. There’s a whole complicated world of how dreams operate in the unconscious mind. And they can be rich to discuss because our unconscious works out stuff while we are in a sleep state.
Fantasies are somewhat related, but they happen while we are awake. And depending on how we respond, we have some control over how a fantasy plays out.
The idea of “fantasy” also has a sexual connotation, but all fantasies are not sexual. The types of theories a therapist subscribes to (also known as our theoretical orientation) influence the nuances of our definition of fantasy. For our purposes, I’m going to be loose with how I discuss it here. Basically, I’m saying that anything in our imagination can be considered fantasy.
I think there could be a distinction between one’s thoughts simply wandering aimlessly – remembering an event, like a vacation or time spent with a friend – and a fantasy that plays out like a story that you are building on as you go.
Both of these types of fantasy can feel uncomfortable or maybe unpleasant. But they can also feel satisfying and fun.
Like the sort of fantasy you have about ditching work, hopping in the car, and taking a day trip somewhere. That seems pretty pleasant. I’m going to also acknowledge that some of the frightening thoughts we have can also fall into the fantasy department. I’m equating any imaginary thoughts as fantasy.
It is my experience that many people are uncomfortable about both types of fantasy – the scary ones and the joyful ones. Sometimes we put so much emphasis on what’s happening in our mind, even if some of the thoughts are outside of our control. Clients often report that they desperately want these things to stop. We often fear that we are going to cause these things to come true.
I can completely understand these fears. I have a fantasy life just like you do. And yes, some of the things that happen upstairs in my brain can be terrifying. Whether it’s imagining a horrific accident or a natural disaster. Where it gets concerning and serious is the point when these intrusions prevent you from being present and productive in your life. The fantasies discussed here are more innocuous.
Both the unpleasant and the satisfying fantasies are full of amazing content for analysis.
Because an area of interest for me is the subject of infidelity, let’s consider a fantasy you might have of being with someone other than your spouse or partner. Even the mere thought of thinking about being with someone else might cause you some distress. But think about what might play out if you did engage in this type of relationship. Who is the other person? Where did you go and what did you do?
Please don’t misunderstand where I’m going here. I’m not condoning stepping out of your relationship or minimizing situations where people do. The reason I had to qualify my motives here is that I know it makes people uncomfortable to let one’s mind wander in this way. If this came up in the course of conversation in a session, I might acknowledge that you seem upset by the fantasies and help you to explore why that might be. Our conversation might lead to discussing the state of your current relationship and how this fantasy parallels or differs from your relationship.
Perhaps you’re feeling that your relationship has grown stale and fantasizing helps you explore the possibility of expanding your horizons within the context of your relationship. Could it be possible that you’re frustrated that you have had trouble finding alone time due to that pandemic? Or are there conflicts you’re experiencing that cause you to wonder if your relationship will last?
In my work with clients, we almost always explore the fantasies of where your mind wanders. It can feel frightening at times. But just because you think something does not necessarily make it real. Chances are, you’ve probably thought about leaving a relationship long before you verbalized it. Exploring your inner fantasy life can acquaint you more deeply with your true sense of intuition and help you align more closely with what you value in life.
Fantasies can help us think more deeply about our relationships with our partners, children, and friends and family. Tuning in to why you might be having fantasies about ditching your job, for example, could help you explore where your career might not be meeting your needs. Our inner life has so much to do with how we live our lives and how we can find more depth and connection.
Therapy can help us explore the inner parts of our mind and determine whether we are living life in the way we want to be. By approaching our fantasies with curiosity instead of judgment, we might consider new possibilities for our life. If you have questions about how therapy can help you, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.