3 Signs Fantasy Is Harming You
Lacy Bentley is 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 feed sex-based compulsions and women’s unique recovery needs. She’s been working with women in addiction and self-destructive compulsive behavior since 2000.
As an author, mentor, coach and speaker, Lacy focuses on releasing perfectionism in 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, Lacy has seen firsthand the destructive patterns fantasies 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.
Three signs that fantasy is hurting you:
1. You lack self care.
2. You find it difficult to concentrate on necessary, daily tasks.
3. You’re avoiding the truth about reality or your situation, putting yourself in spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical danger.
What Is A Fantasy Bond?
Lacy: Women United actually came out of my research at UVU and based on my own experience. I used hentai as a young woman and it really impacted my life negatively. The way I saw myself, the way I saw men and relationships. Nobody was educating women and girls who are trapped in sexual addictions, specifically pornography addiction.
At Women United, that we would focus on educating the world that women and girls are getting trapped in pornography addiction. It’s incredibly problematic because women and girls who use pornography tend to portray themselves sexually and exploit themselves for attention.
Why Can Fantasy Be Harmful?
Lacy: 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. In our groups right now, we have some women who are dealing with the fantasy, some women who have had emotional affairs, some women who have pornography addiction.
It’s kind of a spectrum of women that we work with. What it comes down to is if the woman 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: I have a kitchen remodeling fantasy problem.
Lacy: Don’t we all?
Anne: Always fantasizing about remodeling my kitchen. Maybe that falls into the same category.
Lacy: I don’t know, are you able to take care of your kids in the process of fantasizing about your kitchen? That’s the big question.
Anne: You say that most of us are fantasy junkies. Tell me what that means. Like I just said, I fantasize before I go to sleep about remodeling my kitchen. 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. Educate us about fantasy and how it can harm us.
How Does A Fantasy Bond Form?
Lacy: Anne, 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. As human beings, we’ve got this really well-developed frontal lobe. We want to constantly be creating and developing.
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. 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. It would take me an hour and a half to iron everybody’s clothes. It was driven by this compulsion to look perfect to the outside world. It was taking away from my ability to be happy with my family. I’d get angry.
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.
Where Does Fantasy Originate From?
That’s where fantasy becomes an issue. 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. The struggle is real. I plan the landscape just as I fall asleep. It’s funny when you said that. That’s improving our lives. That’s dreaming.
Fantasy is a disconnect from reality. It’s a distraction, not an improvement of reality. 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. Then we start to project our fantasies onto other people, and it just does more and more damage the longer we do it.
Anne: 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?
Lacy: For starters, like I was talking about how I used to iron all my boys’ clothes, right. 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.
Symptoms Of Fantasy Bonds
Our relationships with our children suffer. They know that we expect perfection from them, and they know that they can’t make mistakes. They don’t tell us when their 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 is 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. She’s expecting so much more from them than they may even be capable of. Now, there’s a very real space for improvement and, okay, there are behaviors that can’t happen in a marriage and family, or in relationships.
Anne: This reminds me of social media. I’m thinking of one person in particular. Her Instagram is gorgeous. Literally, just beautiful. The children are beautiful, the home is beautiful, she makes the most beautiful cakes. Everything about is like unicorns. 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?
Lacy: First I want to validate how much pain she must be in. That’s hard stuff. Hearing how she’s compensating online and trying to create this illusion, it just breaks my heart because so many of us are doing that. There is very real disconnect from reality and fantasy. You see that online, and you know 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.
The Destructive Pattern Of Fantasy
Anne: 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. 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.
Lacy: 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.”
Anne: 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. I am judging her really bad right now, aren’t I? 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, probably.
How To Stop Unhealthy Fantasy
Lacy: What I hear from you, Anne, too, is the 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?” That’s important that we learn to do too, because judgement is fantasy, because we never fully know, right. It’s a distraction from your feelings.
Anne: I want to think about judgment as fantasy. I’ve never thought about that before. What if my judgement on her is my own fantasy about what her life is like? I think that’s really interesting. What helps women get out of the fantasy world and reconnect with their real life?
Lacy: 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.
How To Break Free From Fantasy Bond
Maybe, most of the time, her life really is sunshine and roses and good. Sometimes, maybe it’s not. You had mentioned that you know that there’s abuse in the home. There can be sunshine and roses and abuse and the only place we can make change is in the here and now. What is so hard for women who live in fantasy, who live in distraction, is staying in the here and now, because it hurts in the here and now.
Anne: 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, you know the dishes need to be done,” and I just move on instead of thinking, “Okay, I’m going to be in this moment in time with my child.”
Today, I’m proud to say that I woke up and, instead of immediately getting to work with 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. He just was spouting off whatever. 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, then I was like, “Let’s have a stare contest,” and we just looked at each other and smiled for a while. 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.”
How Fantasy Relates To Addiction
That’s, I think, my biggest hurdle is, “Okay, I’ve sat here with her for four minutes and this is 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 don’t know what your thoughts are about that. That’s what I’m struggling with the most right now.
Lacy: 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 Grey and Anastasia Steel, right. It’s crazy. We get used to that. 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: Yeah, and if we’re so used to the big hits, that can be pretty boring. Perhaps the constant distraction of dishes and emails and phone calls and everything that I do, keeps me in this adrenaline a little bit. When I stop and sit down and stare at my daughter and think, “How long do I have to do this for?”
How Do I Know If I Have A Fantasy Bond?
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. 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.
Lacy: Yeah, you’re exactly right. Those are the things that are going to help the most.
Anne: What does all this have to do with women who have their own pornography addiction?
Lacy: A lot of the women that 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.
Get curious, ask questions like Anne did, 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. 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’re able to live in the moment and recognize the beauty, even in the pain.
Why Fantasy Can Cause Pain
Anne: Some of the pain is caused by the abuse or the lying or porn use of a loved one. For our readers, that’s what it’s caused by. Living in fantasy, rather than setting boundaries, will not help. It will 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.
Lacy: It’s okay that setting those boundaries is hard. It is hard, ladies, it is hard. People push back, and they hurt us back when we try to set boundaries, but that does not make the boundaries wrong.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. It’s tough. Life is hard, and I am really looking forward to the next life, actually. I am not suicidal, but when things get really tough, I think, “I will die eventually,” and that always makes me feel better.
Lacy: Right, this won’t go on forever.
How To Overcome Fantasy Bonds
Lacy: I have a book coming out soon for women who are trying to break out of fantasy or distraction in any way shape or form. It’s specifically for women who are working to break out of sexual and romantic fantasy. I’ve got some good stories in there. I’ve got some really great tools that I learned, as I was learning to overcome my draw to hentai, which is the sexualized anime, my romantic fantasy.
In working through that, I’ve learned some really great skills. They’re all in this book. I’m super excited to share them with the world. Little bit terrified, because my story’s in there. Actually, Anne, what I will do is make sure your listeners, if they want it, can go and download a free copy of it.
Anne: Lacy has 150 free downloads for our audience. Click here for your free download (scroll down to the red box the bottom).
Real Connection Can Help With Fantasy Bond
We are adding more sessions to Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, starting April 30. Click here to see the new schedule. We’ll have a session every single day, and two on Tuesdays and then two on Wednesdays.
As more women join, we will continue to add sessions. My goal is to, eventually, have four sessions every day, seven days a week, so that women all over the world can get the help and support that they need. As soon as we have enough Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group members to support those sessions, we add sessions all the time.
I’m really proud of our coaches and the work that they do there. It’s the least expensive way to get every day professional support. We’re now at the phase where we are thinking about doing grants for women in financial need, because so many of you are in dire financial situations due to separation or divorce or just all kinds of reasons. Being married to an abuser and a porn user is not an easy road, financially.
For those of you who can, we are starting a fund. Please donate monthly. A $5 or $10 donation will help, so that we can offer grants to women in financial need. We really appreciate your support starting that fund. That is at the bottom of any page. You go to Donate and go ahead and make a recurring monthly donation, or you can make a one-time donation.
We really appreciate your support.