Hello, and happy October!
Here is my final installment of the fantasy series - unless you request additional topics, in which case I’m happy to oblige. Otherwise, here is the final important-to-know information related to fantasy:
How do you know if you have problems with fantasy?
Sexual fantasies are extremely common. Still, many people wonder if their use of fantasy at all is “ok,” like President Jimmy Carter whose religious beliefs were interpreted such that thinking about a “sinful” fantasy is as bad as doing it. Some worry that the content itself indicates some sort of pathological problem. As discussed in Fantasy Part 1 & 2, a healthy fantasy life is an inner world that explores the erotic in ways you may or may not want to act on.
The content of the fantasy doesn’t mean there’s a problem with you or your relationship, that you will act on the fantasy, or that you even WANT to act on the fantasy. The taboo is a typical theme in fantasy.
Nevertheless, there are some related indicators that professional help might be right for you:
- If you use fantasy constantly with a partner and/or greatly prefer them to the “real world”
- If the fantasy/fantasies don’t feel optional or within your control; in other words, if they appear as intrusive thoughts. Survivors of trauma may experience this, but not all people troubled by unwanted fantasies have experienced trauma or assault.
- Therapists typically see two types of unwanted fantasy: survivors troubled by thoughts eroticizing the trauma, and people having fantasies they have acted on or are afraid they’re going to act on.
- If you are troubled by your fantasies, or you feel a compulsion to act on fantasies you believe are unacceptable, this would be the time to seek professional mental health care.
How to deal with unwanted fantasies
Wendy Maltz, LCSW, LMFC, CST has written a great deal on the subject of fantasies in general. Her book, Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies, includes the following advice on unwanted fantasies as I have paraphrased below - Please check her out at www.healthysex.com!
- Analyze the fantasy - Assess the content of your fantasy from different viewpoints until you identify the origin of the troubling aspects; this might provide some insight into the unaddressed issues you may have in your life.
- Reduce the need for the troubling fantasy - Prioritize positive sexual experiences in your life to counterbalance the troublesome fantasies. If you don’t have a partner, try reading some erotica and find some more acceptable fantasies to use. Reducing your stress level may help; try deep breathing to calm your thoughts.
- Disrupt the function - Stop sexual stimulation (be it during masturbation or partner sex) when the fantasy comes up, only beginning again when it has gone.
- Transform the fantasy - Within the content of the fantasy, change what aspects you can from negative to positive, until the story/scene has changed completely to a substitution you consider acceptable.
Should you share your fantasies with your partner?
First of all, intimacy in relationships does not mean “tell each other everything.” Remember, everyone in Masters and Johnson’s survey on fantasy reported thoughts about other people! It’s normal, but it’s probably not a good idea to tell your partner you’re thinking about other people. Let each other keep this aspect of fantasy private.
If your fantasy involves a sexual activity you might want to experiment with, it’s fine to tell your partner! I will warn you, most of the time when people act out their sexual fantasy it loses its eroticism. Nevertheless, it can be a bonding experience between partners. If you’re not sure how to talk to your partner, read my blog on communication, or go see a sex therapist.
That’s all for this week - look out for the next blog in which I’ll be sharing some stories about my time at The Masters and Johnson Institute!