Understanding Fantasies

Indulging in fantasies—the imaginary, daydream-like scenarios that we play out in our heads—may seem like a waste of time, but the truth is that they are far from frivolous. Most fantasies, whether conscious or unconscious, serve a specific purpose: They can be entertaining, distracting, frightening, or, in the case of sexual fantasies, arousing. Fantasizing about our specific goals can foster creativity, help us better understand our wants and needs, and even enable us to plan for the future.

In certain mental health disorders, such as delusional disorder and schizophrenia, fantasies can be mistaken for reality, or they can become too rigid or cause an individual significant distress, as in the case of paraphilias. While those unhealthy fantasies can (and often do) cause real problems for individuals who are unable to differentiate fact from fiction, for the vast majority of people, fantasies are harmless, providing us a beneficial escape from the here and now.

The Mystery of Fantasies

Everyone daydreams occasionally. Some of us prefer to fantasize about our pasts (“I would have won that argument if I had just said this”) or potential paths for the future (“What if he felt about me like I do about him?”). Others daydream about things that are currently impossible, like developing superpowers or traveling through time. Though it’s not always clear what specific purpose different types of fantasies serve, some researchers hypothesize that our realistic fantasies—that is, fantasizing about things that could actually happen in the future—may be the most productive. If you find that you spend a lot of time with your head in the clouds, it may be better if those clouds were as grounded in reality as possible.


Pornography, Sex

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