READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.
“Just My Imagination running away from me.” — The Temptations
Fantasy is a human experience. We know that other animals have cravings for food, sex, and domination more likely identified as animal instinct. Perhaps, we will never know if they fantasize in a similar way the human beings do.
People fantasize about almost anything—money, sex, occupation, friendship, religion and on and on the list goes. The Oxford Dictionary defines fantasy as “the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.” Where would we be in our world without the power of fantasy. Creativity and the power of invention would be stymied, even nonexistent without it.
Fantasy is a wonderful human capacity. While it is difficult to measure and assess, it is known to put color and enhance romance in relationships. Sexual fantasy is a powerful experience that adds adventure and arousal to sexual relationships.
That said, therein lies a problem. When fantasy becomes a block to connection to another in romantic relationship, it becomes a quandary. It becomes a source of secrecy, deceit, and even leads to betrayal. The porn industry generated over one billion dollars in 2022. Pornography is not a problem to all who view it. However, there are many who have struggled to eliminate its use because it is against their values and relationship interests. Porn is all about fantasy. There are millions who are hooked on its use.
Fantasy is a very private matter. No one really knows what goes on inside the mind of another. There is a certain degree of anonymity. You can fantasize about another—undress the person in your mind’s eye—and no one ever knows. For those who compulsively sexually fantasize about others without impulse control, it quickly becomes an unmanageable behavior, even an addiction. To those who struggle with this in our society, it is helpful to perform a pathological examination of a sexual fantasy.
Sexual fantasy is a wisp of thought that can sweep into the mind without provocation. Typically, you won’t be able to completely control the prevention of thoughts that come into your brain. Bluntly, you can undress another person and visualize being sexual with that person in a nanosecond. It’s the nature of how the brain is wired.
People have tried to clamp down on their thinking processes to eliminate unwanted thoughts through mind control measures and even religious rites and rituals. There has been some success but not universal.
In order to manage unwanted sexual fantasy, it is helpful to accept the reality that sexual thoughts and impulses indiscriminately enter the mind. The key is to manage the thoughts rather than try to play brain whack-a-mole whenever an intrusive thought is noticed.
It is wise for everyone to pay attention to sexual fantasy. Particularly, for those individuals who are compulsive or addictive in their sexual behavior. Sexual fantasy represents a need that must be addressed in a healthy way.
For example, you notice that a drop-dead gorgeous person moves in next door or just started working for the company you work for. Spontaneously, you think what it would be like to be in bed with that person. Problematic? Maybe, maybe not. It depends upon what you do with the intrusive thought. Many people would experience the thought, dismiss it and move on throughout their day. However, if you are compulsive or addicted to sexual thought, you will tend to linger and ruminate and feel the rush of excitement the idea brings to your brain. While you move through your day, the sexual fantasy lingers, gnaws and nags at the back of your brain. No one knows but you. What do you do?
If you are addicted you will need to move to a safe place that puts you out of harm’s way. Think of it like sitting in the middle of a busy intersection in New York City and a bus is coming right at you. It is not time to ponder how did you get here. It is urgent to remove yourself from harm’s way. So regarding the fantasy, do a pattern interrupt. Shift out of the fantasy by thinking about one of a million other legitimate thoughts. Once out of harm’s way, revisit the fantasy. Decode what the fantasy is all about. Figure out what the legitimate need is that must be met in a healthy way. Many addict/compulsive sexual people have learned to sexualize their feelings. They practice cutting off unwanted feelings with sexual thought/ behavior that is against their values.
Once you identify the need underneath the powerful sexual fantasy, you must develop mature self-parenting skills to meet those legitimate needs. Many people have not developed these skills. It requires training and reconditioning. You needed to learn these skills as a child from your caregivers but you didn’t. So, now you will need to resource yourself with other adults who do these skills well in order to recognize the legitimate need and meet the need in a responsible adult way. It requires impulse control, discipline to stay the course in the presence of discomfort and powerful urge, and staying with the process of applying healthy self-care.
Beating yourself up for having an inappropriate thought will not work.
Personal self-monitoring skills require contemplation and self-reflection. This process needs to be included every day just as you would with other hygiene practices. When you don’t you will suffer from deprivation. You can be deprived in many ways—physically/financially/spiritually and emotionally. Your assignment as an adult is to monitor and meet these needs with restorative measures. Unattended deprivation will fuel entitlement that culminates toward scheming to “want what you want when you want it.” It ultimately fuels addictive fantasy for whatever will numb you from your painful circumstance.
Sexual fantasy is meaningful for cultivating intrigue and healthy sexual experience. However, if you are stuck in compulsive destructive sexual fantasy, you will need to apply these interventions with regularity. These pattern interrupts apply to fantasies of all kinds. The interventions are counterintuitive. Lean into the understanding of your fantasy rather than run from it. It is possible to transform your destructive fantasy from a curse that promotes intimacy disability into a blessing of emotional, spiritual, and relational connection.