I recently did a Google search on fantasy. You probably will not be surprised that the overwhelming majority of web posts have to do with sexual fantasies.
There are other fantasies that are way more subtle and way less guilt ridden than these. There are two types of fantasies in which we take part. These are not daydreaming which are usually short-lived imaginations about people or events. The purpose of daydreams is to escape momentarily from our lives and allow ourselves to visit the land of what-if.
Fantasies tend to be either forward-looking or backwards reaching. In them we rehearse what could be and what was. They are either negative or positive and often include fulfillment of goals or visions of potential disasters.
An example of a negative fantasy is rehearsing past mistakes. When your fantasy has much to do with the phrase, “I should have…”, chances are you are replaying a past event. Your mistake could be real or perceived. This fantasy reminds you that either you were wrong or you were wronged. Emotionally this leads to either anger or depression depending on who is remembered to be at fault.
Another negative fantasy is predicting a horrible outcome in some future event. For instance, when I fantasized about being a writer, I sabotaged my future with the persistent thought that I will be rejected. I fantasized not about success but about failure. This turned into a fear of failure that paralyzed me for years.
But what about positive fantasies? Surely, they are a good thing.
If I relive a successful event to learn from it, it is not a fantasy but a learning tool. If I continue to relive past glory to the point of not being content in my present situation that is fantasy. The difference is that when we compare our past, even positive experiences, to our present in a way that does not help us improve our present situation, it has a detrimental effect. An example of this is the professional athlete who can not adjust to life after retirement.
If I look forward to an event, and I am the hero of that event that can create unsettledness with where I am now. An example of this occurs when I create a fantasy so positive and powerful that I would rather live there than in my present reality. Fantasy is different from goal setting and aims and objectives in that with fantasies there is no definable way to achieve the dream nor any real measurable outcomes. It is as if you are magically transposed to an alternative future.
And this is the real problem with fantasies. It doesn’t matter if they are negative or positive, backward or forward, the end result can be an unhappiness and discontent with who we are and what we are doing. Just like daydreams, some fantasies can have a place in the form of escape or wish fulfillment. Unless they involve lust or some other sin, they can be harmless and even provide a temporary spark of happiness.
Dangerous fantasies play with our identity. We can be someone different than who God created me to be. We can be that warrior that saves the world, that brilliant one who knows what to say, or that craftsman who fixes everything. We can even change our physical body. We move towards unhappiness with who we are created to be.
None of us are perfect the way we are. We have times of courage, moments of brilliance, and can even fix things from time to time. But we are a real mash up of a lot of things. It is who God made us to be who we are.
God made us to be who we are, not who our fantasies tell us we are. Not who our jobs or lack of jobs tell us we are. Not even who our spouses tell us we are. We are wonderfully and fearfully made, formed in the womb by the creator of the universe. That is who we are.
What we do with our identity is why we have free will. It is up to us to live as the child of God we were meant to be or to allow our identity to be defined by others or our own flights of fantasy. The choice is ours to make.
I chose God’s identity of me. I hope you do as well.
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon). He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca