Fantasy is part of everybody’s mental life, getting us through a boring hour or putting us in touch with an absent lover. Fantasy has a sound and healthy component and it has less salubrious dimensions.
Most of us live lives extraordinary only in their ordinariness. We finish school, get a job, marry, raise children, take a few vacations, enjoy some good times and suffer through some adversity. Few lives are exciting, certainly on a sustained basis.
Fantasy readily changes all of this. The overweight housewife married to a dull porker turns into a slinky beauty wooed by her muscular and ever attentive husband; the student doing poorly in school earns high grades from her teachers and high praise from her parents; the husband strapped into an anesthetizing job is the head of his own far-flung software empire; the unmarrieds suddenly meet Mr. or Ms. Right; the oldster gets unexpected and regular visits from relatives and friends; and the struggling blogger posting pieces is picked up by a national syndicate and sold to 500 newspapers.
These are all – even the last one (!) – examples of wholesome fantasies, common fantasies, fantasies that most people share at some stage of their life (for the last fantasy above, substitute your own mad and glorious dream). There is nothing wrong with them.
But they differ radically from another kind of fantasy. Here the fantasy has begun to verge on mental pathology. We have diffuse angers diffusely directed at the world in general, and we imagine we have been slighted and made to feel uncomfortable; we weep and curse and rage at editors who fail to purchase our columns (again, supply your own specialty!).
What distinguishes these groups of fantasies is their consonance, or lack thereof, with reality. The useful fantasies can all be the beginnings of positive change in a person’s life, and they hold out the hope that a person can in fact do something about his or her circumstances. These fantasies are, in brief, tractable and translatable into reality.
There is, finally, a third, or hybrid, group of fantasies. These are what we call daydreams. They are pure escape, private fairy tales, fully recognized as utterly unrealistic, but, for all that, pleasant companions during the dry hours of our lives. In these we are millionaires, travel by private jet, are loved by Mel Gibson or Julia Roberts, look like the air-brushed super-humans who populate the advertisements in Mademoiselle or Allure, do not work, have no problems, and so forth
That sounds pretty nice, but that, too, is a kind of repetitious routine that would soon get tiresome. When all is said and done, for most of us the best fantasy is the very one that we direct, produce and star in every day of our lives.
That is our ‘right now’!
That is who we are.