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Fantasy vs Reality

Jamieson Van Loan

My therapist asks me a lot if what I’m thinking or saying is actual reality. And a lot of the time my answer is no. I think as humans we are prone to fantasize life. Blame Cinderella, but we tend to sway towards a dramatization of our actual lives versus what is actually happening.

For example, do you ever find yourself telling a story and elaborating it, even slightly, for the desired response. Like your kid didn’t actually wake up at 5:15 but 5:30 or your boss made you stay late every day this week but it was really every day but not Tuesday. We all do it. I own it. We want to feel justified and acknowledged in our feelings and reality so we err on the side of exaggeration to illicit the feedback we want. This is normal.

The issue with this then becomes, does your fantasized world overtake reality? Do you live in the fantasy version of your life? Do you project your fantasies on people? Do you tend to have catastrophic thoughts? I certainly used to. I would imagine outcomes before they happened. I created a story line for people before understanding them. I forecasted my future (always wrong by the way). I created "end of the world" type scenarios (not the apocalyptic kind) constantly. I jumped to conclusions. My imagination was way more attractive than the simple reality. But eventually all those fantasized expectations led to disappointment, anger, negativity, etc. It has taken a great deal of practice to question myself and where my thoughts are coming from to prevent this distorted view of the world. I am constantly asking myself, “is this reality?”

And I’m not talking about fantasy in an extreme sense but how often does a situation occur and you try to analyze it and break it all down including the other person’s standpoint but the reality is you have no clue what anyone else is thinking or feeling and assumptions never benefit anyone. My therapist would tell me to “stick to the facts”.

The idea of the “could bes and should bes” is really poison for our thought process. Fantastical thinking tends to be future based. There are situations where you idealize past events (also not healthy) but typically it is the idea that the future (or people) could-be or should-be a certain way. These imagined expectations only cause you disappointment because rarely are they based in reality. Unless you’re a clairvoyant, you cannot predict the future.

This issue weasels its way into our inner self-thoughts as well. Telling ourselves or convincing ourselves of fake news is just as terrible. Thinking that you “just can’t do something” or “I’m not good enough” or “I’m better than that” or “I’m not worthy” is a defensive mechanism we use based on illusions. Always remember that we become the stories we tell ourselves. Be positive but truthful in your personal narrative.

This is all a reminder to stay mindful, stay present. Question your thoughts and if they are based on reality or based on a story you’re telling yourself. Stick to the facts. Use your imagination for good, like vacation planning but not for building the world around you. Being mindful of where your thoughts are originating will not only be helpful in staying present and avoiding disillusioned disappointment, but it will begin to create a healthier mindset overall. Try it today- question where your thoughts are coming from and how reality based they are. Shift them and see your mindset change for the better. 

Jamieson xo