“My real self wanders elsewhere, far away,
wanders on and on invisibly and has nothing to do with my life.”
– H. Hesse
Mechanisms driving fantasy addiction break down with recognition of absence, with poignant realization that your characters are not here, that they have never been here and never existed, that they were never yours. You’re alone, and your most ardent passion, your trump card, that one thing that dissipates meaninglessness and takes away the feeling of crippling loneliness is a lie, just a self-crafted lie to stifle your existential turmoil.
Is it? Was it really that cheap in the end?
You don’t need me to tell you that, sometimes, maybe even most of the times, it takes looking oneself in the mirror and realizing that, god, we really are cracked and some of our daydreams are indeed just that, silly distractions and compensations to feed our messed up ego and get us out of the mud because we are too scared to try and step out on our own. Yet, this is just one tiny aspect of your defense mechanism that happens to be serve one far more important purpose.
What we call MD is not fundamentally wrong.
Before you decide that your levels of fucked up are so high or bizarre that they don’t fit any diagnostic criteria, remember that those cravings driving your MD, they are cravings for life. Life that was denied to you. And there is nothing wrong with that, there is nothing wrong with protesting against the dullness of existing. This is what the most substantial aspect of MD is, this is what MD itself is: your way of frantically holding onto that one reminder that you too can feel alive, in strange and deviant ways, but it’s still your most honest attempt to live. Is it maladaptive? Yes, sometimes terribly so. But still, you are trying to live your life the only way you know it and there is no need to feel guilty over a habit that is merely a manifestation of your insatiable instinct to survive. If you’re in deep, fantasy is where all your feelings escaped to, it’s where you escaped to and metamorphosed into microcosms of intricate storylines and characters, so that your own emptiness cannot recognize you when it comes looking out for you. It’s a game of hide and seek, where you are both hunter and the hunted – but you have forgotten where to search, you have forgotten where you hid yourself.
MD is an extension of you. It is you to the very core of your being. It is the feelings you never got to express, words you never said, beliefs you never defended, traits you never nurtured enough. But these phenomena, they exist as latent possibilities somewhere deep within your mind, they exist as seeds that were left forgotten and never got to flower. But they are not gone, they still can be sensed faintly somewhere on the other side of consciousness. If you are cold, it means you instinctively know the meaning of warmth, even if you have never felt it. That burning love some of you have for your dreamworlds, for your characters, “made up” love also had to come out from somewhere. You didn’t invent it, you didn’t fabricate it. It came from depths of your subconscious that craves and knows how to feel love. If you know how to love fantasy, then you have the ability to love reality too because this war is not about fantasies and realities – it is about you and your ability to love. As I explained in III part: overcoming addiction to fantasy does not mean finally learning to love reality – it means rediscovering that self you sent into exile. The only reason one can madly love fantasy, while remaining indifferent to reality, is because to love fantasy, you don’t need a self. You merely exist as an awareness without identity, a selfless observer who consumes and lives off their characters and idealized selves. But to love and interact with reality, you sure need a well-defined self because it is the receptor through which you perceive reality. Without this receptor, reality cannot and will never get to you. You know what reality is? It doesn’t exist. Reality is molded by feelings, made by feelings, born through its observers. It doesn’t exist without you observing it, without you feeling it.
You have forgotten yourself. You have forgotten in order to forget the discomfort that comes with it and by forgetting yourself, you have also forgotten reality. You’re held back by your own convictions that you are too different, too dysfunctional for this world. Living – what should come off as an instinct, like breathing, like blinking, for you occurs as a sophisticated skill that has to be practiced daily, with crippling bouts of tiredness at each pretense to be alive. Every day is a pretense, every fucking moment, pretense to smile, pretense that what your friend says gets to you, pretense to care, pretense to be alive. But this, too, is a defense mechanism that must be broken. Otherwise, you will always be standing on the sidelines, torn between watching other people living their lives and watching your characters living their lives. But where are you in all of this?
Life has to begin somewhere. Maybe it will not begin with rediscovering bliss, maybe it has to begin with pain, with surrender to all things repressed. Maybe you have to peel layers of yourself until you get to that place where things got blocked. Maybe you have to try to expose your dream self to the world, to someone other than you. Get things out of your system. Your beliefs, your feelings, your demons. You have to let someone other than you observe these feelings, directly or indirectly. I do not know how many false versions of yourself, defense mechanisms and fortified walls will have to fall for this to happen, but for your existence to be acknowledged, for it to bleed into reality, you have to try to reveal what was kept sealed. There is nothing more draining than waking up to the thought that no one can see the dream (real?) you, or touch you, hear you, witness the fires burning inside you, no one can warm up to those flames. There won’t be a single testament of what existed inside you when no one watched. Have you ever wondered, if fantasy is the only place where you feel genuinely alive, why are you so secretive about it? Seriously, what’s the point? Why do you hide the only thing that feels oddly right in a world where everything else seems wrong? Well, of course. You try to live out your daydreams, become the better version of yourself, you direct that energy to the real world, and what happens? The energy hits a wall and never reaches real world, leaving you forever estranged. Feelings you want to express are ideally supposed to flow naturally from your fantasies to your real self, but as soon as they reach your real self (that is, as soon as you try to express them in reality), everything backfires because your state of self is so broken and fragile that it cannot host these emotion, which is what prevents their expression.
To communicate your daydream feelings with the outside world, there has to be a bridge between your own world and the outside world through which these feelings can flow and this bridge is the self. Without it, those two worlds cannot communicate and this is where the split occurs, this is precisely where MD cuts you in two. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a vivid inner life; writers, poets, artists, philosophers, they all have it, don’t they? But unlike us, people with healthy inner life are not split. Their worlds are communicating with each other, ours are not.
Behind every daydream, there is a feeling.
It drives your plot, it molds your characters. It’s the mastermind behind it all. Every character, every single story is an embodiment of it. The entire narrative content of your specific daydream is driven by an emotion that you failed and continuously fail to express in real life – and as long as this particular emotion remains unexpressed in your real life, by your real self, the respective daydream which is driven by it will not stop.
Every daydream is a personified feeling, a throttled desire to feel something, not to possess. And these feelings, they are truer than anything else, they are bits of the puzzle missing from your real self. The stories you weave in your head are an attempt to salvage bits of yourself, gone a bit wrong, but still, they were born out of your desire to live, out of your desire to change things. It is your primal hunger for life, for emotional or intellectual stimulation, for connection, fulfillment, meaning, passion. The silliest thing you can do to yourself is ignore the hunger and pretend you can live without it. You can’t. You shouldn’t. Instead of obsessing how to ignore the hunger, why not try to find some food for your soul?
But before you can find the food, find your mouth first.