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Escaping the Fantasy Trap: How To Find Healing in Presence

Many women grapple with compulsive fantasies. Breaking free from the trap of fantasy ultimately leads to a more fulfilling and authentic life. Tune in for more.

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In today’s fast-paced and digitally driven world, many of us find ourselves constantly navigating between reality and the realm of fantasy. For some, this internal struggle can lead to addiction and compulsion, particularly in the context of pornography and romantic fantasies. Lacey, the founder and CEO of the Women United Recovery Coalition (WURC), sheds light on the unique challenges that women face in this regard and offers insights on how to break free from the allure of fantasy and regain a deeper connection with reality. Tune in The BTR.ORG Podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

Understanding Fantasy

Fantasy, in its essence, is a natural part of the human experience. It is our imaginative capacity that fuels creativity, innovation, and our desire to improve our lives. However, when fantasy becomes a distraction, a means of escape, or an unrealistic comparison to the real world, it can turn into a problem.

The Impact on Women

Lacey emphasizes that many women grapple with compulsive fantasies, often driven by societal pressures and perfectionism. She points out that when women are trapped in these fantasy worlds, it can have a significant impact on their lives and relationships. Expectations of perfection, both in personal appearance and the appearance of their lives, can lead to feelings of inadequacy, which can affect not only their emotional well-being but also their relationships with their children and partners.

Reconnecting with Reality

Breaking free from the shackles of compulsive fantasy is a challenging but rewarding journey. Lacey and Anne suggest that the first step is to recognize when you’re trapped in the world of fantasy. Ask yourself tough questions, be curious about your behavior, and acknowledge when you’re being judgmental or comparing yourself unfairly to others.

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

As you begin your journey to safety, we are here for you. Consider attending a BTR.ORG Group Session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00): I have Lacey with me today. She’s the founder and CEO of Women United Recovery Coalition. The acronym is WURC. It’s an organization dedicated to raising awareness of female pornography addiction, how fantasy feeds sex-based compulsions and women’s unique recovery needs. She’s been working with women in addiction and self-destructive compulsive behavior since 2000. And as an author, mentor, coach, and speaker Lacey focuses on releasing perfectionism and recovery while learning honesty and personal accountability. She’s written articles and blogs for numerous magazines, women’s recovery sites in the movement toward ending exploitation and fighting the harms of pornography. As a former hentai, which is sexualized anime user and a relationship and love addict, Lacey has seen firsthand the destructive patterns fantasy can cause individuals and families. She also knows from personal experience that fantasy is the root of the sex addiction tree. Her hope is to better inform people about the very vulnerable population of women and girls trapped in their own pornography usage and fantasy worlds and their compulsive sexual or relationship behaviors. So welcome, Lacey.

Lacey (01:15): Hey Anne. I’m glad to be here.

Women United Recovery Coalition

Anne (01:17): We’ve met at some of the anti pornography movement events and I’m grateful for the work that Lacey does. So what is Women United Recovery Coalition and why did you start it?

Lacey (01:28): Women United actually came out of my research at UVU and based on my own experience, so like you had mentioned, I used Hentai as a young woman and it really impacted my life, the way I saw myself, the way I saw men and relationships. Put those two things together. I realized that nobody was educating on the population of women and girls who are trapped in sexual addiction, specifically pornography addiction. We said sexualized anime, but honestly what anime is not sexualized. So we decided at Women United that we would focus on educating the world as much as they would listen, that women and girls are getting trapped in pornography addiction too. It’s not just a men’s issue that can be incredibly problematic, especially for these young women and girls, how they portray themselves and exploit themselves for attention. And so that’s kind of what we’re focused on, is making sure that people understand the different sides of female usage and the different facets that come with young women and girls using pornography and learning from pornography.

Who can benefit from WURC?

Anne (02:37): Lacey, what types of women do you work with in your programs?

Lacey (02:40): We work with women who are ready to take control of their fantasy worlds, their internal worlds who are ready to stop thinking about the cute dentist down the street or quit with the romance novels, that kind of thing. In our groups right now, we have some women who are dealing with a fantasy, some women who had emotional affairs, some women who have pornography addiction, kind of a spectrum of women that we work with. What it comes down to is if the woman’s self-identifies as having an issue with comparison or fantasy or some other type of sex-based compulsion, she is welcome in our groups.

Anne (03:19): I have a kitchen remodeling fantasy problem. Always fantasizing about remodeling my kitchen. Maybe that falls into the same category.

How can fantasy harm us?

Lacey (03:34): I dunno. Are you able to take care of your kids in the process of fantasizing about your kitchen? That’s kind of the big question.

Anne (03:40): Yeah. In my case, yes.

Lacey (03:41): Okay, cool.

Anne (03:42): Okay, so you say that most of us are fantasy junkies, and tell me what that means. Like I just said, I fantasize before I go to sleep about remodeling my kitchen. So if everyone fantasizes from one degree to another, what is the harm? If we all do it, I know you’re going to tell me, which I’m excited about. I’m not trying to say there is no harm in it, but educate us about fantasy and how it can harm us.

Fantasy distracts us

Lacey (04:08): Well, Anne, so there’s a very real part of us that dreams even. We look at gorillas and they seek to improve their environment. They make nice nests, even gorillas create tools to make life easier. And as human beings, we’ve got this really well-developed frontal lobe, and we want to constantly be creating and developing. And as women, we have a divine and deeply ingrained desire to create and constantly improve. The trouble is we get distracted from the God-given desire to create and improve and progress, and we start instead comparing. And when that comparison distracts us from our everyday life, it’s really destructive. We’ve all heard of the perfectionistic tendencies that women might have. We want our kids to be well groomed on Sunday. We want their shirts ironed. I have four boys and I used to iron their shirts and their ties and their pants and their undershirts every single Saturday.

(05:09): It would take me an hour and a half to iron everybody’s clothes, but it was driven by this compulsion to look perfect to the outside world, and it was taking away from my ability to be happy with my family. I’d get angry. And what I’m finding with a lot of women is we watch romantic comedies. Who doesn’t like to watch a good Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, right? However, that’s an issue when Matthew McConaughey then goes into the bedroom, it’s an issue when your best friend’s husband is now someone you’re thinking about how compassionate, how funny he is, how good he is to her. Oh, look how he’s just holding her hand and he’s so sweet and the way he looks at her, and that’s where fantasy becomes an issue. So it’s not the drive to do better, not the drive to improve your kitchen because girl, we’re building a house and I fall asleep dreaming about my new office.

“If we’re all stuck doing it, none of us are truly connection with each other.”

(06:00): The struggle is real and I plan the landscape just as I fall asleep. So it’s funny when you said that that’s improving our lives. That’s streaming. Fantasy is a disconnect from reality. It’s a distraction, not an improvement of reality. And the problem is, if we’re all stuck doing it, none of us are truly connecting with each other. We’re all putting off this fake mask instead of getting to the real vulnerable, deep human need we have for connection, and we get scared of that vulnerability and then we start to project our fantasies onto other people and it just does more and more damage the longer we do it.

Fantasy as Perfectionism

Anne (06:36): So if a woman spends a lot of time in fantasy, what impact can that have or does it have on her life and on her family? What does that look like on a real day-to-day basis.

Lacey (06:47): For starters, kind of like I was talking about how I used to iron all my boys’ clothes, it was so freeing the day someone said to me, stop. Why would you do that for three and five-year-olds? It’s a really legitimate question being in that, okay, I’ve got to be perfect. I’ve got to put myself out there in a way that people think I have it all together when really I am a hot mess. When we can’t acknowledge that, we start to disconnect and our relationships with our children suffer. They know that we expect perfection from them, and they know that they can’t make mistakes. So they don’t tell us when they’re struggling. They don’t tell us when something’s wrong. They don’t tell us when they need us. Perfection is a fantasy when a woman is in fantasy. She isn’t incapable of that level of connection with herself, with her God, with her friends, with her children, with her spouse, with her siblings, with her parents, because she’s not her real self and she’s expecting so much more from them than they may even be capable of. Now there’s a very real space for improvement in, okay, there are behaviors that can’t happen in a marriage and family or in relationships.

Fantasy & Social Media

Anne (07:59): This reminds me of social media. I’m thinking of one person in particular. Their Instagram is gorgeous, literally just beautiful. The children are beautiful. The home is beautiful. She makes the most beautiful cakes. Everything about it is like unicorns. And I know her in real life and I know her husband is abusive. I know that her children are abused. I know that she is constantly battling with anxiety and insecurities. Would you say that she’s got a fantasy world going on online and then she’s got her real life in real life?

Lacey (08:39): First, I want to validate how much pain she must be in. Hard stuff. And hearing how she’s compensating online and trying to create this illusion, it just breaks my heart because so of us are doing that and there is very real disconnect from reality and fantasy, and you see that online and then Anne, what’s really going on in her life. But then other people don’t know that she needs help. They don’t know that she needs support and she’s alone.

Can we be present with our loved ones if we live in fantasy?

Anne (09:11): Yeah, that’s what I worry about. I think there are people who are looking at that Instagram and they are thinking, wow, she’s really got it together. Look at her wonderful husband. Look at her cute kids. And look at her cakes. They’re so beautiful. Or her tacos or whatever it is she’s making or her sewing project. My heart aches for them because they’re comparing themselves with a fantasy and my heart does ache for her because she is in so much pain and so isolated from real connection because of this fake life. It’s really hard.

Lacey (09:48): I think about her kids and how they are not getting the support and help they need. What they’re learning from mom is, and I understand why she’s going there. I understand the pain she’s trying to manage, but what her kids are learning is we don’t talk about the hard, we don’t talk about the bad. Everything is perfect publicly.

“Judgment is fantasy”

Anne (10:06): Well, she’ll do a check-in with reality post every once in a while and show her messy desk or whatever, but it’s still within the context of beauty, if that makes any sense. And I am judging her really bad right now. I am severely judging this person, and now I’m feeling bad, but I do want to bring it up, not in terms of judging her, I don’t want to judge her. But in terms of us, I don’t know where I’m going with this. I don’t want to sound judgmental. I want to be helpful to people, but I’m ending up being judgmental and not being helpful.

Lacey (10:38): What I hear from you, Anne too, is a concern for her. And this unasked question, how can I help? And this worry for your friend. It’s good that you’re aware, okay, am I being judgmental? And that’s important that we learn to do too, because judgment is fantasy. We never fully know, right?

Anne (10:54): Yeah.

Lacey (10:54): It’s a distraction from your feelings.

How can we reconnect with real life?

Anne (10:57): I want to think about judgment as fantasy. I’ve never thought about that before. What if my judgment on her is my own fantasy about what her life is? I think that’s really interesting. What helps women get out of the fantasy world and reconnect with their real life?

Lacey (11:13): Well, my dear, you just did it. You call yourself out. You go, okay, this is not reality. I don’t know the truth. You just got curious, which is a skill that many of us have not developed. You’re like, okay, what is going on with me? I’m judging. This isn’t how I want to be. So you got honest with yourself. You started asking yourself questions, recognizing that you don’t have all the facts, and maybe most of the time your life really is sunshine and roses and good. And sometimes maybe it’s not. You had mentioned that there’s abuse in the home and there can be sunshine and roses and abuse. And the only place we can make changes in the here and now. And what is so hard for women who live in fantasy, who live in distraction is staying in the here and now. It hurts in the here and now.

How Anne struggles with being present

Anne (12:03): My biggest trouble living in the here and now in the present moment is boredom. Actually, I want to be in the here and now, and then I’m like, here I am. The dishes need to be done or blah, blah, blah. And I just move on. Instead of thinking, okay, I’m going to be in this moment in time with my child, and today I’m proud to say that I woke up and instead of immediately checking my emails or doing other things that he needed to be done, breakfast dishes, cleanup, blah, blah, blah. I actually sat on the couch with my five-year-old son, and we just sat there for probably a half hour and he just kind of was spouting off whatever. And I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I was listening to him, I was acknowledging him. I was looking him in the eyes.

(12:49): Then I was like, let’s have a stare contest. And we just looked at each other and smiled for a while. And it was just that I thought, this is what I’m trying to do. This is where I’m trying to go, okay, I’m going to be in the here and now with my daughter. And I’ll be like, okay, I’m available to you. I think my biggest hurdle is, okay, I’ve sat here with her for four minutes and this is kind of boring and I really need to do the dishes, or I really need to do this or that, and I get back to work. I dunno what your thoughts are about that, but that’s what I’m struggling with the most right now.

“What we all need so desperately is connection”

Lacey (13:20): I think about what you gave your son this morning, and that is exactly what we need as women, as men. That’s what we all need so desperately is that connection, that we’re not rushed. It’s all good. We’ll just hang out here. Hey, let’s just stare at each other for a minute. I love it. That’s exactly what we need to create in our lives with people who are safe to connect with on that level. Our children. In the addiction model, it talks about how our dopamine levels get used to bumping up so high. It happens with pornography viewing, it happens with anger, it happens with fantasy. For some of us, it happens with reading romantic novels or even just seeing a picture of Christian Gray and Anastasia Steel. It’s crazy. We get used to that, but we have to get used to the normal, which is what you just had with your son this morning that’s supposed to give you a dopamine hit that’s supposed to make you feel happy.

Anne (14:24): And if we’re so used to the big hits, that can be pretty boring.

Lacey (14:27): Oh yeah.

Distraction = Adrenaline

Anne (14:28): Perhaps the constant distraction of dishes and emails and phone calls and everything that I do kind of keeps me in this adrenaline a little bit. And when I stop and sit down and stare at my daughter, I think, how long do I have to do this for? But I want to get better at it and more practiced until that is what I crave. Those quiet moments with my children and living in that moment with a peace and stillness and also my soul needs that every day we need a period of time of quiet, both spending time with ourselves in a quiet place, spending time with God in a quiet place and spending time with the people that we love.

Lacey (15:07): Yeah, you’re exactly right, and those are the things going to help the most.

Anne (15:10): So what does all this have to do with women who have their own pornography addiction?

“Dig deep, get curious”

Lacey (15:16): A lot of the women I’ve worked with come to this place where they are living outside of reality. All of the women listening, whether you feel like you’ve got a compulsive fantasy yourself, or you see some patterns in yourself that you know are not helpful to your spiritual and sexual wellbeing, I just encourage you to dig deep. We get curious, ask questions like Anden, when we were talking here just a few minutes ago about judgment. Start asking yourself the hard questions. We can learn. We’re here in order to become better and to create. And so use those powers of creation that are inside you, not only to create life, but to create a better life. To create a happier life, a more connected life. A life where you don’t need fantasy because you are able to live in the moment and recognize the beauty even in the pain.

“Learning to set those boundaries and moving forward in a direction of mental health”

Anne (16:11): And some of the pain is caused by the abuse or the lying or porn use of a loved one for our listeners. That’s what it’s caused by living in fantasy rather than setting boundaries will not help. It’ll just keep you in the pain over and over and over again rather than coming out into reality facing it. Learning to set those boundaries and moving forward in a direction of mental health.

Lacey (16:38): And it’s okay that setting those boundaries is hard. It is hard, ladies. It is hard. And people push back and they hurt us back when we try to set boundaries, but that does not make the boundaries wrong.

Anne (16:50): Yeah. Yeah.

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