Imagine a universe where you were free to be you with all of your good, bad and ugly qualities. You are loved in this place exactly as you are. Do you see it?
Guess what? You just fantasized.
“Fantasy” is usually associated with unicorns or sex (and sometimes both–we don’t judge), but fantasy is simply your individual way of seeing the world. Fantasies are comprised of your hopes, dreams, fears, and your plans for the future. We even fantasize about what other people might be thinking or feeling.
Fantasies manifest in two ways: conscious fantasies, which are the ones that you are aware of and can articulate — like George Clooney in a bubble bath. Unconscious fantasies are outside of your awareness but govern your beliefs, your thoughts, and your relationships.
Just as easily as you can imagine a soaped-up George, we can read into and imagine what a loved one is communicating. We have all kinds of miscommunications due to the imagined meaning we assign to our interactions. Couples, in particular, are famous for this because they’ve developed unconscious ideas about themselves and their significant others. When tensions or resentment runs high, every interaction — even the well-meant ones — are colored by unconscious fantasies.
If we are overtaken by them, fantasies can be detrimental, leaving very little room for relating with others. A common example is people who become involved in porn addiction; they have allowed their fantasy life to take precedence and interrupt their real-life interactions and expectations. But as long as you can separate your fantasies from external realities, fantasy can enhance your health.
The benefits of fantasizing:
Recharging one’s batteries. The very act of looking at a travel magazine or reading a feel-good story can transform a person’s mood. If you read all about a lush, remote island, you can feel as though you went there through your reading. It’s an escape from the mundane schedule and routine.
Escaping danger or pain. For many victims of childhood abuse, fantasy has been necessary. Fantasy allows us a way to escape a situation that is untenable. For those who may be in a marriage or a job that they can’t afford to leave, they can put themselves in a happier place through fantasy, imagining that they live in a different family or that they can walk out anytime they want.
Fostering creativity. Anything goes in a person’s mind; there are no rules or parameters. Allowing your mind to have no bounds opens up the possibilities for creativity. Fantasies are essential to painters, writers, and to solving interpersonal problems.
Getting to know yourself. Being a witness or a third person to your own thoughts can be quite informative. Being able to track your fantasies can motivate you to try something new.
A mental holding space. Fantasy is a safe space. The person who longs to find true love or to lose weight and feels it may be impossible can retreat into a world where the possibilities are limitless, allowing a chance to play with contemplating change.
Imagine a life where you are completely physically and psychologically comfortable. You are surrounded by all the people you care about and who care about you. Your mind is quiet and you have nowhere to be, no responsibilities, and no conflict. You are enough just the way you are. Now that’s the place we should all visit at least once a day!