“The things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist,” said Hemingway, and in this reflects the nature of all dreamlike activity. The meaning that exists in a daydream dwindles and collapses once brought to reality. They are two planes that cannot be literally translated one to another, yet transforming former into latter can and eventually must happen if you are to be free from its grip. But it comes with a twist. Turning fantasy into reality means understanding it. If fantasy is an indirect expression of unconscious activity, understanding where it came from, where it points to, what it tries to embody and compensate for equals translating it to the language of waking consciousness.
“The same feeling of not belonging, of futility, wherever I go: I pretend interest in what matters nothing to me, I bestir myself mechanically or out of charity, without ever being caught up, without ever being somewhere. What attracts me is elsewhere, and I don’t know what that elsewhere is.” – E. M. Cioran
Fantasies are projections, emotional content that got cut off from ego, from conscious experience of oneself, and taken to exist elsewhere as a separate entity, forgetting its relation to its source with whom it could no longer coexist. For instance, if you suffer from low self-esteem, emotions that require healthy levels of self-esteem to be expressed in the first place, such as self-acceptance or love, will not be able to be experienced consciously and spontaneously as an integral part of ego due to an internal conflict, and will consequently separate from you and manifest externally as fantasies that indirectly arouse these feelings in you through your stories and characters. It’s a shift of perspective; emotions originally supposed to be felt by you are now experienced by your characters, which, by being cast outside yourself, gain a certain degree of autonomy. It’s like having a second sense of self outside yourself, but this second self is never conscious and thus never fully capable of sustaining life on both sides. You may feed it with all kinds of fancy emotions, but you will always remain hungry and craving because the other half starves.
Carl Jung, whose entire psychoanalytic research was dedicated to studying workings of fantasy, wrote that to overcome and dissolve fantasies is to restore their contents to the individual who has involuntarily lost them by projecting them outside himself. They disappear spontaneously when what was projected outside of ego returns to ego.
But what does it mean to restore their contents? Please note that we are talking here about restoring emotional content of fantasies, not literal one.
When particular feeling, which you failed to experience yourself, separates from you and manifests through fantasy, what used to be a subject – that is, a part of you – now seemingly becomes an object, something distinct from you, something existing elsewhere. By starting to perceive the content of your fantasies as objects, you start to perceive them as something to be physically acquired, literally possessed or acted out in real life in order to stop craving.
But this doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because fantasy isn’t an object – it’s that second sense of self, a subject. To reclaim an object means to possess it physically, but to reclaim a subject means retrieve the emotions trapped within daydreams, to relearn how to experience them. Dissolving fantasy and reintegrating it into the self from which it separated means to release emotions that underlie it, not to possess its contents literally.
You can’t have a literal company of your imaginary companion and maybe you can’t have a PhD in nuclear physics you fantasize about, and no, you cannot undo your abusive childhood if you had one. Instead, you must identify what sort of emotions these scenarios awake in you. What emotions in particular are you coming in touch with when having an episode of MD? Is it a sense of belonging? Emotional intimacy? Is it attention? Can you experience these emotions in normal waking life when surrounded by others? If no, why not? What prevents you? Identify what traits are missing from your conscious self that are needed for you to be able to experience these emotions. If you fantasize obsessively about love, it probably doesn’t mean that you don’t have love in real life and are doing it because you are lonely – what it means it that a part of you needed to experience love in the first place went dormant. If you can daydream about romance only in third-person without involving yourself, what emotional receptor, what aspect of yourself did you lose so that you can no longer experience romance on your own skin? What part of yourself went dormant so that emotions processed by it had to dissociate? Why did it go dormant?
Analyze your fantasies. Write things down and find connections. There’s an unexpected amount of unconscious logic directing the inner theater.
The crucial thing to understand is that the allure of MD stems from identifying emotions experienced in a daydream with a particular scenario or a character. Instead of realizing that cravings are born from and governed by an emotion you want to experience (i.e. confidence, a sense of belonging), you end up thinking you are infatuated with a character that is merely a metaphorical container and a bringer of that emotion in you. This results in misplaced attachments, misplaced attachments result in hunger that can never be put out because you mistake the message for the messenger.
I know that for some of us imaginary companions feel too dear, too real to be left behind and disacknowledged – and if overcoming MD meant reducing them to a mere defense mechanism, I would be the last person propagating it. The only way to overcome them, without giving them up, without stripping them of importance, of zeal and fire they elicited in us, is to learn from them. They are personifications, messengers of emotions, and to dissolve them without robbing them of their meaningfulness, is to hear the message they carry. When emotional content projected onto fantasy is made conscious and reintegrated into the ego, the message is heard and the messenger, having carried out his purpose, dissolves.
In this way, overcome fantasies and inner companions don’t become lost or dispersed into thin air; instead, they are returned to you, reintegrated into conscious self, into the place where they originally came from, and you are no longer hungry to search for yourself outside yourself – in projections and dreams.