FANTASY: How the conflict between fantasy and reality can lead to episodes of bipolar disorder and any mental illness & cause difficulty in relationships
When we are in our teens or younger, we pick a career path and study for it for years…then eventually, if we persist, we become that profession and take on that identity. We commit to doing that path and being that identity for the next 30-50+ years of life. We make this decision solely based on our fantasy for the job.
FANTASY in this context is defined as using our imaginations to set goals for possibilities in our lives. Fantasy is what we believe “should” happen for our lives.
We often don’t spend time envisioning a good enough partner or quality of life…instead we fantasize about our IDEAL SELF (our concept of perfect) and want to find those qualities in a partner or career.
When we are dating, we are basically figuring out if this person we meet fits into our fantasy for ourselves and our lives. If they fit, meaning that they have a similar fantasy for themselves, we continue dating them. If not, we find someone else to date with the hopes that eventually we will find someone with a compatible fantasy to our own and hope that the reality of being with them fits the fantasy we both have.
When we get married, we commit to spend the rest of our lives with our partners based on who we fantasize they will be and who we fantasize we will be. We create a fantasy for the family we will have. The home we will make together…our dogs. We fantasize about vacations and travels together. Everything we plan with our partners is the journey of two people creating one fantasy.
When relationships end or we change our minds and lives in big ways…it is often because we have discovered that our fantasy and reality don’t fit each other and we either accept the reality (and stay on course in our relationship and/or field of work) OR we decide that the reality is not what we truly want for ourselves and we create a new fantasy to pursue.
Fantasy Causes Difficulty In Relationships
We often fail in commitments because relationships don’t live up to the fantasies we have for them. When we are in love, it is so hard to see all the giant red flags waving in our faces…they look like rainbows.
We convince ourselves to believe that if only we love our partner enough, we can mold them into our ideal partner (which is really our ideal self that we are not even able to be).
If we don’t let go of this fantasy and accept our partners and our relationship for who and what it is…we will be miserable.
The reality will never be the fantasy AND reality will not be “good enough” until we let go of the fantasy.
Letting go of our own personal fantasy and creating a fantasy with our partner is how we build and sustain our relationship so that it has a future.
Why do we base our lives on FANTASY?
BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN.
Everything in our lives beyond the present moment is UNKNOWN. How else could we handle the sheer terror of NOT KNOWING ANYTHING, if we did not keep a picture in our minds of what “should” “could” or “would” be IDEAL?
As human beings, we build a future based on what we fantasize today and we hope and pray that all of our efforts will give us just a small percentage of our fantasy…but when we don’t know any better, we hope for 100% of it and may not be willing to settle for less. This is one reason why so many people are so unhappy about their lives. As we get more life experience 50% of our fantasy is AWESOME!
In order to cope with NOT KNOWING ANYTHING, we create in our minds the “SHOULDs” and “SUPPOSED TOs” of life…this gives us our structure of how to make sense of the world…and so much of it is based on fantasy, the rest is based on what we know from past experience.
THIS IS HOW WE SURVIVE. We inherit from our families our beliefs and values and choose our own set of beliefs as individuals that will structure our lives and we hope and pray that it works.
How Fantasy Becomes A Problem
FANTASY BECOMES A PROBLEM WHEN IT IS IN CONFLICT WITH REALITY.
This causes major STRESS.
Because we so often build the structure for our lives based on what we truly hope and believe “should” and “will” happen…when what we believe SHOULD happen is not happening, it causes tremendous CONFLICT. It causes us to question everything we believe in ways that cause incredible pain, fear, anxiety and depression.
The conflict between fantasy and reality causes us to doubt our beliefs and ourselves. It can cause us to experience an “existential crisis” where we question why we are alive and what is our purpose in life. We do anything we possibly can to make meaning when our fantasies don’t come true.
When we are able to make meanings for our fantasies not coming true that soothe pain, reduce anxiety and allow us to function…we are successfully coping in life.
However, when the meanings we make for our fantasy not coming true create pain, increase anxiety and depression…this can develop into mental illness.
Mania and depression can be triggered when this conflict between fantasy and reality occurs because the conflict causes STRESS in the forms of incredible fear, overwhelm, urgency, pain, loss and possibly trauma.
When we refuse to acknowledge reality and live as if the fantasy is real, this is psychosis.
How we respond to what happens…how we respond to not having our fantasy…determines our quality of life and our mental health.
The GIFT of Fantasy
FANTASY allows us to bring out the best in ourselves.
It is all about our potential as human beings. Fantasy motivates and inspires us. Fantasy gives us something to have faith in and hope for. Fantasy gets us through the toughest times in our lives.
We need our fantasy. We need our fantasy to get us through life. Without fantasy, all we would have is not knowing what will be and fear.
Without fantasy, we could not build a future.
We don’t just create fantasies for ourselves…we create fantasies for our children…we create fantasies for our friends…we create fantasies for everyone we come in contact with based on how we would like them to respond and how we want to be treated.
So much of who we are as human beings is based on the fantasies that we have been building throughout our entire lives.
As human beings we use fantasy as a primary coping skill in order to survive.
We plan our lives
We build our lives with others
We have families and raise children to be good people
We put faith in our community and trust that people will follow our societal structure
Fantasy is a key ingredient that makes up part of the foundation and our abilities for survival as human beings.
IDEAS FOR COPING WHEN FANTASY DOES NOT COME TRUE
- FOCUS ON GRATITUDE. Notice what you do have in your life that is what you want it to be. This is accepting reality as it is and seeing all the goodness you do have in your life.
- CHANGE THE FANTASY. Change your fantasy to better fit reality by setting realistic goals for yourself. Focus on what IS possible instead of investing so much of yourself into what you believe SHOULD be possible.
- FORGIVENESS. Forgive yourself and others for life not being what you hoped it would be. Stay away from blame, shame and guilt…they will not help you. Know that you and others did the very best you could with the resources and abilities that you had at the time and you simply were not able to create what you hoped for yourself.