Who’s Your Fantasy Friend?

Andrea Anderson Polk – Licensed Professional Counselor

We all have a Fantasy Friend we turn to that keeps us feeling safe, needed, loved, special, and important. Fantasy Friends can be any type of imagined companion or distraction in your life that you turn to and fantasize about when you are having a bad day, hurting, stressed, or struggling. Your Fantasy Friend can look like:

A skinnier, more attractive version of you.

A fancy new job, promotion, or position of power and influence.

A person you desire to be in a relationship with, to pursue you, and pay attention to you.

A perfectly decorated home in the best neighborhood that everyone envies and admires.

Escaping to exotic places with no responsibilities or

Children attending the top-rated schools and universities.

Romanticizing a previous version of yourself where you had more success, more adventure, or more wealth.

A larger audience: All the claps, follows, friends, and likes.

None of these things are bad or wrong in and of themselves. The problem arises when you use them to repeatedly escape the reality of your pain (i.e., insecurity, rejection, loss, and loneliness). We’ve all been hurt and we’ve all experienced painful situations and relationships such as heartbreak, the loss of a dream or a loved one, and not getting that promotion or position. Maybe you have recently lost your job, got diagnosed with an illness, gone through a divorce, infidelity, a bad breakup, or regret a missed opportunity to pursue a dream. Perhaps it’s a past pain that shows up in the present such as anxiety, stress, perfectionism, and overwhelm.
Your Fantasy Friend makes you feel better and it’s a sneaky defense mechanism. Fantasizing is escaping a painful reality by longing for and imagining a different circumstance or relationship.
A woman is feeling inadequate among her skinny friends. She was recently rejected by a love interest, and she did not receive the work promotion. She begins fantasizing about what she would look like five or ten pounds lighter, what she would wear, whom she would impress, and how powerful she would feel. At this point, she is not counting calories, skipping meals, or starving herself. She does not have an eating disorder and she is not addicted to weight-loss supplements or drugs, at least for now. However, the fantasy is a defense mechanism that begins to interfere with her daily life and if not addressed, will gradually become toxic and all-consuming.
Deep down she believes the lie that her worth is tied to her appearance. Her Fantasy Friend, a prettier, skinnier version of herself, provides her with a false sense of power and security where she is beautiful and important. She entertains these images rather than honestly facing her painful feelings of inadequacy and Fantasy begins with an unmet desire, and because you do not have the thing or relationship you desire in reality, you begin to imagine or fantasize that you do. Essentially, you live in denial. You deny that the circumstances and people in your life cannot always meet your expectations or give you what you want.

I’ve found in my work with clients, that denial is at the root of dependency. People who struggle with addictive behaviors, (whether it be work, a substance, or a relationship), share one thing in common: They want to escape their current reality because it is hard and scary.
They do not want to be in the present moment, so they fantasize about an imaginary future. Their drug of choice is denial, and their Fantasy Friend is waiting to provide comfort. They fantasize about their next success, next party, next drink, next lover, or next deal long before they begin any of these activities.
Next time your Fantasy Friend calls out to you and woos you, remember these companions are imposters who offer a temporary fix ultimately leaving you empty and feeling alone.

What you can name, you can heal. And once you name your Fantasy Friend, healing can begin. Who or what is your Fantasy Friend?
Andrea Anderson Polk is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private psychotherapy practice in McLean. She is also the author of The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior. Learn more about Andrea, her book, and how to work with her one-on-one by visiting her website:

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