The capacity to imagine or fantasize is an important part of being human. It is the capacity to create mental images and scenarios as a way of making sense of our world. It our fantasies we link the past, present and future and create links between where we are an where we would like to be. In times of adversity our ability to imagination can become an important source of strength and comfort. It also allows us to create possibilities and test them out allowing us to plan and organise. It is the power behind artistic and creative expression and it is the internal screen onto which we project our fears and desires. It is also plays an important role when we have incomplete information. In such circumstances we fill in the missing pieces with our imaginings. While often useful this can also be a trap when we jump to incorrect conclusions, especially where our relationships are concerned.
In therapy examining our imaginings is important for two reasons. Firstly they are like dreams in that they provide links to our unconscious and to the long forgotten past. Like much of our internal life they are often on the threshold of consciousness yet can pattern and shape our lives in ways that are unhelpful to us resulting in self sabotage. Bringing these fantasies fully into conscious awareness allows us to be make better choices.
Fantasy can also sabotage us in another way. If life is tough over prolonged period, particularly in childhood, we may at times disengage from reality in favour of our internal fantasy world. While short term this may help us cope in the long term this may create problems. The difference between our internal and external worlds (fantasy and reality) may become a barrier to us fully engaging in life and relationships. This can become a vicious circle - having imagined something better the external world may become a place of frustration and disappointment. This frustration and disappointment can lead to further withdrawal and fantasy, leading to still further frustration and disappointment...
Therapy offers the opportunity to fully appreciate the difficulties we once faced and the ways of being we developed to cope with this adversity.
A dream without a goal is like
a car without an engine - going nowhere!