Rachel and Her Fantasy Friend
Updated: Aug 3
We all have a Fantasy Friend we turn to that keeps us feeling safe, needed, loved, special, and important.
Your "Fantasy Friend" can look like: A prettier, skinnier 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; traveling to exotic places with no responsibilities or commitments; children attending the top-rated schools and universities; romanticizing a previous version of yourself where you had more success, more adventure, more wealth; or 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 reality. The reality of your pain (i.e. insecurities, heartaches, rejections, limitations, and losses).
Here's an example:
Rachel was cake tasting for her wedding with her mother, sister, and maid of honor when she received the phone call. Her fiancé, Luke, said he needed to talk, and it was important. Her heart sank. A part of her knew the inevitable was approaching, although the stronger part of her was living in denial. She was hoping their engagement would make everything OK.
Luke told Rachel he loved her deeply and considered her his best friend, but he wasn’t quite sure if he was still in love with her. In fact, he had developed romantic feelings for someone else, a colleague at work. He said he had really hoped the engagement would solidify his love for Rachel and change his heart toward his colleague, but he nonetheless was beginning to feel trapped and increasingly anxious. He explained to Rachel he needed to explore his feelings for this other woman, whom he had considered a friend for so many years. Rachel had met this colleague while attending various work events, happy hours, and holiday parties over the years and had also overheard their phone conversations. She intuitively had a bad feeling about their work relationship and confronted Luke several times, yet she also desperately wanted to believe they were simply work friends.
Luke called off the wedding. He said he needed time and space to do some soul-searching. Rachel was ashamed, devastated, and heartbroken. Because the pain was intense, she began coping with her loss of both her fiancé and her dream of marriage by developing a fantasy to numb her pain. She fantasized how he would come back for her and realize the error of his ways, how he had made a horrible mistake. He would proclaim his love for Rachel, realizing that the other woman was nothing compared to Rachel and that his feelings for the other woman weren’t love but lust. As a result of her fantasy, she put her life on hold and waited for Luke.
Besides, she rationalized, he was honest with her about needing some time, so maybe he was right, he just needed some space to come to his senses. Or once his soul-searching season was over, he would be ready to make a commitment to marriage. She fantasized many different conversations they would have and imagined many scenarios of him surprising her and coming back for her. She even fantasized about how this entire situation could bring them even closer together than before, and they would tell this story to their children one day.
Rachel began to believe the lies she was telling herself, and her denial grew stronger and stronger. In the meantime, Luke avoided her phone calls. She even spiritualized away her pain by believing this must be God’s plan for their love story, and she just had to be patient and wait for him. Rachel was stuck. She was trapped in her fantasies caused by her denial.
Her underlying pain of sadness, rejection, heartbreak, and abandonment fueled her denial of reality that Luke had left her and that he said he might be in love with another woman. She never stopped to consider why she would want to marry a man like that. Instead, she hung on to the one wisp of hope she strongly believed she was hearing from him: “I need time to figure all this out.”
Rachel did not need to let go of Luke; he had already left. She needed to let go of her fantasy.
She needed to accept the reality that she was single and not getting married to Luke. Her fantasy was a defense mechanism she used to avoid her emotional pain. She was living in denial. Rachel was suffering.
Her source of suffering was not Luke or Luke’s leaving; it was her fantasy of him coming back. That is where she was stuck. Her fantasy was blocking her ability to heal and face the truth.
The truth is that she had been suffering in her relationship with Luke for years prior to their engagement. She could never quite trust him, especially regarding his relationship with his work colleague. Something seemed off. He spent longer hours at work. He slowly stopped pursuing Rachel, and she no longer felt special to him or a priority in his life.
By denying reality, she was unable to deal with her pain of abandonment in a healthy manner and grieve the loss of her fiancé. It was easier for her to relate to her fantasy instead, as she had very painful feelings of rejection over this loss. She was suffering because she had put her life and dreams on hold and waited for him.
Through our counseling sessions, Rachel was able to face her greatest fears, accept reality, let go of her fantasy, heal from her rejection and abandonment wounds, and embrace the grieving process. All of this gave her the freedom to enjoy her life again and trust God with her heart’s desires.
Years after her treatment ended, Rachel reached out to thank me for helping her see the truth during her sessions as well as to share a photo from her wedding day. She explained in her note that once she let go of her Fantasy Friend of Luke coming back, she found herself and truly enjoyed the company. She ended up marrying a wonderful man who was in her life all along, yet she had never noticed him while she was living in denial and caught up in her fantasies about Luke.
Many counselors in this case would treat Rachel for “love addiction” while also focusing the sessions on providing tools to help her let Luke go, not realizing they would be assisting her in avoiding reality because she needed to let her fantasy go, not Luke.
I've found in my work with clients, that denial is at the root of addictions.
We all have an addiction to denial, to not being present in the here and now when we experience pain and difficulties.
People who struggle with addictive behaviors, (whether it be your work, a substance, a relationship, or even your to-do-list), share one thing in common: They are addicted to denial; they want to escape their current reality because it is painful 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.
Perhaps your Fantasy Friend is not an addictive behavior or based upon losing a relationship, it could be any of the things I listed at the beginning of this article. Things related to your appearance, performance, or reputation. I encourage you to read the previous article, "Who's Your Fantasy Friend?" which provides an in-depth look at which coping companion you turn to for comfort and relief, and why.
Next week, I will share a specific exercise and a prayer to help you overcome your Fantasy Friend.
**The content for this blog post has been taken from chapter 5 (What Feeds a Cuckoo? Lies we Believe and Defenses We Use) of Andrea’s book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior
The photo accompanying this article was sourced from istock and is in the public domain.