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How to stop fantasizing

Sometimes fantasies of sexual or romantic scenarios might seem more fulfilling than actual sexual intercourse.

For many adults, fantasy can even be a crucial element during sex.  So when does checking out with fantasy in the middle of sexual intercourse become a problem?   Sure, your partner probably wouldn’t like to know the full details of your every fantasy, but what they don’t know can’t hurt them, right? If inner fantasy remains undetected, what’s the problem with focusing on a dream lover rather than… the real lover in your bed? This widespread condition almost warrants a proverb for this pornographic age: “One in the bed is worth two in your head.”

Why does fantasy feel so good?

In or out of bed, we generally rely on fantasies or daydreams to boost our egos with magnified feelings of desirability, bravery, and mastery. After all, the ‘mind’s eye’ of imagination is the last refuge of the burdened, and we’re all burdened by the demands of our present, the fears of the future, and layers of known and unknown past traumas that seem to want all our attention, all the time. Personal fantasies are those sole properties which, in the words of Virginia Woolf, truly are “a room of one’s own.”

Fantasies can also be dissociative coping mechanisms learned in childhood to prevent the ego from being overwhelmed. The pattern is established to such an extent, that we might not even be able to fully realize the degree to which fantasy dictates our daily experience. When such pleasurable escapism is unwanted and unstoppable, this is a form of fantasy addiction, which itself is often a symptom of sex addiction or love addiction  ( More on why do men and women have affairs ?… and is my wife or husband a sex addict?).

What’s the harm in fantasy?

Here are some of the potential fallouts from losing oneself in fantasy rather than staying present with reality:

1. Destruction. “What goes up must come down.” If it’s to build the ego up with grandiose feelings through ‘inflation’, there follows a period of ‘deflation’ that can be devastating where feelings of worthiness give way to feeling worthless.

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2. Distortion. Wearing glasses with the wrong prescription will impair one’s vision over time. Similarly fantasy impairs the ability to discern and adapt to reality, although it may give the illusion that one is actually ‘practicing’ to be better-adapted to reality.

3. Disconnection. It’s dismaying that attempts to connect with others through shared experiences like sex and conversation can seem to create so much disconnection. When relationships feel draining or unfulfilled, chances are that we’re not actually experiencing the relationship itself rather we’re experiencing how we experience. Underneath any fantasy, communication is usually rooted in isolation and longing, which can only create further isolation and longing cloaked in fantasy.

How can we control our fantasies?

We’ve probably all had the experience of “checking out” during unpleasant or uncomfortable experiences – such as tedious conversations or boring activities. Even stimulating conversations may inspire one to check out, if only for a moment, in order to focus on personal goals, feelings or anecdotes to share next.

When do we stop listening to what is actually going on?

How can we be present with reality even when we are uncomfortable, annoyed or just plain bored?

These are lifelong questions to which there are no ultimate answers except for individual understanding. Through the help of a trained sex therapist, we may begin to develop a process for asking and answering these same two questions phrased another way: what are our triggers, and what are the tools for self-regulation that work for us? When we can ask and answer these questions, we will begin to experience emotional presence.

There is no substitute for meaningful connection with a sex partner than… building a meaningful connection. This requires a certain risk to face the unknown and the certainty that all will be okay. Being ‘okay’ can mean that we will receive a pleasurable experience, it can also mean that we will give a pleasurable experience. The ability to give and receive pleasure really requires that we are present with ourselves first before we can be present with others.

 

 

Photo credit: ssri

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18 Responses to “How to stop fantasizing
Monroe
4:50 pm November 24th, 2011

Fantasy appealed to me because it was more available than pornography, it is guaranteed to match my interests, and there seems to be no evidence to cover up or dispose of. The harm of getting caught up in fantasy is that it conditions your brain to feed on the vulnerabilities of people (others and yourselves). When you muse about the young lady who would flash her naughty parts at you in the elevator and imagine something developing from there, you reduce that person and yourself to animals governed by the most basic physical sensations and stimuli. You deny people their soul and intellect. It is dehumanizing, demoralizing, and wears on you. You nurture your fantasies because they seem fun and exciting, but they really empty you out and sap the value out of people and relationships.

5:43 am November 26th, 2011

Thanks for sharing more about your experience with fantasizing, Monroe. How did you come to the realization that fantasizing is an energy drain? Perhaps your breakthrough could help others…

Monroe
4:02 am January 10th, 2012

I came to the realization during a night of smoking some very potent marijuana. I had an honest desire that night for improving myself and my overall character, so I took the time to analyze why it was I had so much trouble initiating and maintaining social relationships with women. While someone could have easily pointed this out to me having known the problem, it really was the temporary insight that let me see the true profound effect it really had on my life. The idea played through my head, and it just seemed to be correct in each and every way. Having found the source of it, I knew it was time to make a change.

I’ve made subtle improvements, re-wiring my psych, now focusing more on the active situation/conversation at hand much more easily, instead of undressing the person with my eyes. It truly feels a bit liberating, but it is still a work in progress which I believe will have no end.

Anywho, for others I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the drug abuse, but do whatever helps you regroup your thoughts in an insightful way.

Monroe
5:49 am January 10th, 2012

Well, fantasy is fun, especially because I’m so creative (…pats self on head…). I can turn things that captured my interest into things that changed my life. The scary thing is realizing that the fantasy is consuming you. You’d rather replay, polish, and perfect it than work on real problems. I also find myself wanting to validate my fantasies by finding similar situations in fiction or true confessions or pictures. Of course, the best fantasies would have very negative consequences in real life. Wanting something so wrong, so illogical becomes painful. Then I realize that the only alternative to snapping out of it and living with the heartache is some sort of self-destruction.

kani
6:20 pm March 9th, 2012

my fantasies are not about sex,i daydream about being a better person,i daydream about different situations,about being able to do everything i cant or have failed to do in reality.i dont remember when i started but its draining me sand its getting harder to break free.please help.

J.D.
8:16 pm June 18th, 2012

I too fantasize about being a completely different person having a completely different life. It’s been like this on and off since I was a teenager. It has never been much of a problem and I’d never call that an addiction. I always saw it as just a harmless diversion, and I could go for years without fantasizing. But lately it has started again and I’m worried that it’s becoming an addiction. I think it’s because recently I quit my job due to stress and now I’m back in college to study for a career change. And this is a way to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty I’m feeling. Also I just turned 40 and so I’m probably having a mid-life crisis and I don’t think I like my life very much. I’m also not happy about getting old and losing my youthful looks. I’m functioning normally in my daily life. I’m taking good care of myself and I’m getting good marks at school. But it’s driving me absolutely nuts that I’m unable to control myself and I feel mildly depressed about it. The fantasies are just too enjoyable and much better than reality. I have never told anyone in my life I have this condition. No one around me would ever imagine I have this problem, since I look completely normal and not unattractive. I have a pretty good understanding of why I love fantasizing but I’m completely powerless to stop it and I want to stop.

4:55 pm June 21st, 2012

Hello J.D. Seeing as you’ve never spoken with anyone about this secret, double life, you may benefit from talking with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist about fantasizing. Look for someone with experience in motivational interviewing or cognitive behavioral therapy. These practices can help you understand what you want to accomplish, and how. You can start to search for a counselor by searching the American Psychological Association’s psychologist locator: http://locator.apa.org/

Does this help?

gnsb
8:04 pm November 24th, 2014

Thank you so much. Accepting that “After all, the ‘mind’s eye’ of imagination is the last refuge of the burdened” makes me feel so much lighter.
I fantasize all the time, about every possible thing/ situation (not necessarily sex). Even while reading this very interesting article, I zoned out for 5 minutes. This was reflected in my academics. I started using pomodoro timer for studying and doing exercise in breaks. But lately, the timer expires without me having read a single paragraph.

Alison
2:14 am July 8th, 2015

Thank you for the article. I have been struggling with fantasies a lot lately. I feel so distant from reality, and I have stopped caring about the things that are really happening in my life. I feel like maybe this is different than sex addiction, but in many ways it is probably the same. Anyways, many of the other resources on this topic are overly religious, and hard to relate to as an agnostic person. Your perspective is helpful to me.

12:55 pm July 8th, 2015

Hi Alison. Thanks for the feedback and glad you found the information here useful. All the best.

anon
3:57 am February 15th, 2016

Another obsessive fantasiser here…and another person who can’t really relate to the sex/love addiction part of it as I believe that is to do with people who cannot be without those things in real life? I tend to be without those things rather by choice…although I would say that my fantasies fulfil social needs I am not meeting in my own life. I’ve used my imagination as an escape since I was a child and would say people who do it the way I do (create an entire fictional world with imaginary people etc.) quite possibly do so as a natural response to loneliness. I tend to find I do not feel lonely, although I am usually alone. It is probably that my fantasies save me from ever feeling loneliness.

For those imagining themselves being someone else (I’m just myself in my fantasies), perhaps this is a self esteem issue.

I agree with the others it is depressing. I would rather live my own life rather than a fictional one, as I am very neglectful of real life, happier as I am in an imaginary world. I think the way around this is to figure out what need is not being met and then figure out what stops you from meeting it in real life. For me, I tend to discount real-life people or write them off too quickly as not being ‘right for me’ (I’m talking about friendships here…I can’t even imagine someone being right for me in a relationship…). This means I don’t take any time to get to know them so unwittingly deprive myself of opportunities for connection. I’m trying to learn not to write people off so quickly and approach life with curiosity instead.

Tony
2:02 pm February 17th, 2016

Whenever I’m very aroused and masturbating, I have strong urges to message my female friend. She’s a friend and co-worker who is a married mother and who I greatly respect. But, I can’t stop having vivid masturbation fantasies about her. I constantly think of her and get more and more worked up until I can release. I edge for several hours at a time when I’m in this state. However, afterwards I feel guilty and totally regret thinking about a friend like that. It’s like an endless cycle

4:45 pm February 25th, 2016

Hi Tony. To me it sounds like you have more of a moral problem, than a fixation or addiction problem. I would suggest you speak with your psychologist if your thoughts are troubling you or your fantasies make you feel guilty afterwards.

Michael
2:36 pm March 5th, 2016

‘Hello im addicted to internet porn vidieos. Please help me finding a theripist that will help me im believe that im addicted to internet porn

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:45 pm March 7th, 2016

Hi Michael. Why don’t you call the helpline on our site? Our trusted treatment consultants can help you make the right decision for you.

Izzy
5:24 am May 31st, 2016

I’m 19 and a virgin girl. But my fantasies are always about older woman! (I have never been nor do I want to be with a woman) It’s been happening for years, it’s usually when I bored or about to go to sleep. I’m always doing something heroic and being rewarded in sex…I have like complete back stories for each one in my head it’s kinda sickening. It’s like a complete (very detailed) movie that plays in my head. It used to be like everyday multiple times a day then I got more into my religion and stopped for like months. Then all of a sudden it came back again and freakier then ever, I have good and bad days. I just want it to stop really. I hate not being in control of my own mind.

SEBASTIAN
7:36 am July 24th, 2016

The only problem with all day dreamers is that, they prefer idle mind over busy mind. Keep ur mind occupied with ur hobbies. Avoid watching movies or videos that u believe influence ur mind towards immoral things. fantasising about some one is heinous and immoral and an injustice to ur brain that needs better thoughts. In addition, I would say of u can make someone strip in ur mind;it implies you have a very creative and strong brain. As Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. So, I would say congrats u have got a intellectual brain but u need is to rewire it.
Few things to do in my opinion that will help.
1) if u r above 19 get married. Don’t wait to get settled or all other excuses u give.
2) stop going near to things that trigger the response in u.
3) make diagrams of u everyday. How the day influenced u.
4) read books of people who r philosophers because that is type of mind u all have.
5) every night spend 5 minutes, in thinking what u did day.
6) meet people, not opposite gender learn to control ur self in real world.
7) meditate.
I promise u if u follow this routine for 40 days. U vl c a huge transformation.

Elza
5:46 am October 9th, 2016

The only way to break away from negative habits is by having a daily routine. When you have a daily routine it will help you to stay focus and the more your doing it, it becomes a new habit. Just like Sebastian mentioned ” keep your mined occupied with your hobbies” I totally agree with that. You need to program your mined or your mined will be programmed. If you’re fantasying about leaving your dream life then I would suggest you watch ‘Bob Proctor’ videos on how to live your fantasy. He is a great speaker and is widely known for his success. He understands pretty well how our mind works, so I highly recommended anyone who is looking to turn his/her fantasy into reality apart from sex.

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About Alexandra Katehakis, MFT

Alexandra Katehakis, MFT is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist/Supervisor, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist/Supervisor, and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot Healthy Sex After Recovery From Sex Addiction. Please visit our website or contact (310) 843-9902 for more.

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