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Andrea Anderson Polk’s Blog

Clinically Practiced, Biblically Informed

  • Writer's pictureAndrea Anderson Polk

Who's Your Fantasy Friend?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

woman sitting on boardwalk overlooking a large body of water. Article on Who's Your Fantasy Friend.

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.

Coping Companions

Coping companions are pain-numbing agents, ways we numb our pain and distract ourselves from pain. They comfort us temporarily when things become hard and painful. However, these companions are not good friends; they are counterfeit friends who leave you empty and alone.

To avoid feeing sad, lonely, and afraid, you make daily choices to numb your pain by overeating, overworking, overdrinking, and overperforming. Perhaps you turn to coping companions such as food, sex, work, television, affairs, gambling, gossip, social media, planning, shopping, alcohol, drugs, and sleep. We become dependent on or addicted to our coping companions because they distract us from our pain.

Although they provide immediate relief, the problem arises when we turn to these coping companions regularly for comfort. Coping companions begin in your imagination. Way before you turn to them for comfort, you fantasize about them in your imagination.

Fantasizing is escaping a painful reality by longing for something and imagining a different set of circumstances or relationships.

Your Fantasy Friend

Due to this reoccurring pattern of fantasizing I see among my clients, I coined the term, “Fantasy Friend,” which is the specific coping companion you turn to for comfort and relief. We call the object of their fantasy- their Fantasy Friend. Fantasy is using our imagination and thought life to avoid the reality of a difficult situation and our corresponding pain rather than facing it.

Fantasy begins with an unmet desire, and because we do not have the thing or relationship we desire in reality, we begin to imagine or fantasize that we do. Essentially, we live in denial. We deny that the circumstances and people in our lives cannot always meet our expectations or give us what we want. Maybe you have a desire for marriage or to be promoted at work, but when your desires go unmet or something or someone does not turn in your favor as you hoped, you escape the pain of disappointment, heartache, and rejection by turning to your Fantasy Friend.

Here's an example:

Your husband has new work assignments, and he is traveling more frequently, including weekends. You begin drinking more in the evenings to cope with your stress of having to operate more like a single parent in addition to your increased household responsibilities. When your husband asks how you are feeling about the transition, you tell him how thankful you are he has this job that provides for your family and that you will make it work. Although this is true, you are avoiding communicating honestly how you are really feeling. Perhaps you fear there is nothing you can do to change the circumstances. Drinking to cope and ignore your underlying pain or pretending like nothing is wrong eventually creates more suffering than the pain itself, such as addictive behaviors, underlying resentment, and marital issues. Your Fantasy Friend does not have to be a substance or an addictive behavior. Your Fantasy Friend can be any type of imagined companion or immediate distraction in your life that you turn to and fantasize about when you are having a bad day or struggling.

God designed our imagination as a powerful, creative function of the right brain. Imagination is a template to hear from him and to see what he sees. Imagination is also a foundation for vision and faith. Rather than use our imagination for good, we visualize our Fantasy Friend which deepens our denial and ultimately leaves us unfulfilled.

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, 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 reality. The reality of your pain (i.e. insecurities, heartaches, rejections, limitations, and losses).

We suffer when we avoid reality.

Fantasy leads to suffering when we try to avoid pain and the reality of our circumstances by using the defense of denial.

Addiction to Denial

We avoid reality through denial. Living in denial is easier than facing reality. One way we live in denial is by fantasizing. Denial is ignoring reality and pretending that painful emotions do not exist. “Nothing is wrong” or “I feel fine.” Here's an example:

Let’s say you and a close friend have been growing apart over the last couple of years, and instead of accepting the reality that your friend no longer responds to your invitations to spend time together and excludes you from gatherings, you continue to make significant efforts to pursue them. The defense mechanism is denial. You are living in the illusion that nothing has changed. The pain you are avoiding is the feelings of rejection. Perhaps even anger. The reality is that your friend does not want to be with you, and their actions reveal that fact. Rather than living in denial, it is important to go through the grieving process associated with the loss of this relationship. Facing your deeper-rooted fears allows you to start the healing process which includes identifying the lies you believe such as, "I am unworthy" or "I am too much" or "I am not enough."

I've found in my work with clients, that denial is at the root of addictions. People self-medicate through their coping companions, yet addiction or dependency on those things begins in their imagination. They fantasize about their next success, next meal, next drink, next outfit, next performance, next lover, or next deal long before they begin any of these activities.

We all have an addiction to denial, to not being present in the here and now. People who struggle with addictive behaviors, (whether it be work, a substance, or a relationship), 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.

We create a fantasy in our minds that keeps us feeling safe, needed, loved, special, and important.

Our Fantasy Friend is an imposter, a temporary fix, and it deceives us away from what is true.

Essentially, we are using fantasy to deny or escape the reality of pain, loss, disappointment, rejection, or heartbreak. Your Fantasy Friend can begin in childhood because you experienced a wound or trauma and coped with the pain by creating a way out through fantasizing about a different set of circumstances. When the unmet need and unresolved pain carries through to adulthood, and when it is repeated enough, we can become addicted to our fantasies, which keeps us stuck in unhealthy relationships with ourselves and others by repeating old, familiar patterns. When we block our pain through denial by turning to our Fantasy Friend, the pain is still there, beneath the surface. The pain is buried alive and will manifest somewhere eventually and significantly impair our relationships, work, and health.

Your Pain Contains Truth

How we deal with our pain is important. Just as we all experience pain, we all engage in unconscious ways to avoid dealing with our pain. Namely, denial, through the use of fantasy. These are called defense mechanisms. Just as we all have pain in our life, we all use defense mechanisms.

Defense mechanisms are the specific ways we lie to ourselves to avoid the reality of painful situations and our corresponding feelings, such as fear, sadness, anger, and grief. Defense mechanisms block truth, but knowing the truth is what sets us free from living in a perpetual state of suffering and feeling stuck repeating the same behaviors over and over again.

Rather than end our suffering by running toward the truth, we run toward our Fantasy Friend, our coping companions.

Your Fantasy Friend is an invisible imposter that invades your thought life and taints your God-given imagination in order to sabotage your heart’s true desires and twist the truth to make it look like your Fantasy Friend will satisfy you and take away your pain.

Fantasy is a distortion of the truth. The truth is conformity to reality, and fantasy is conformity to denial.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) Truth is synonymous with reality, and the truth is that the person you are right now is the only person accessible to you. Not some past version of yourself you've romanticized and not some picture- perfect future version of yourself. It is important to learn to accept the reality of who you really are in the present moment. To press into your pain, identify the lies you believe, and face the deepest truths of your life so you can be healed.

What you can name, you can heal. And once you name your Fantasy Friend, healing can begin.

Who or what is your Fantasy Friend?

Next week we will take a look at Rachel's story and how her Fantasy Friend came about after her fiancé unexpectedly ended their engagement. We will look at the specific ways she faced her fears, pressed into her pain, and found freedom.

**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.

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Andrea Anderson Polk is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified, registered clinical supervisor, and certified professional coach. She has a private practice in Northern Virginia with nearly 20 years of clinical experience helping hundreds of clients on their healing journey.

She is driven by a deep calling to help ambitious women of faith experience healing and breakthrough so they can live each day with peace and purpose. 

Andrea believes healing happens through relationship. The wounds that occur in a relationship must be healed in a relationship. Andrea invites you into a life-altering relationship.

Work with Andrea one-one- by contacting her here.


Andrea has spent her career studying the human experience and has developed a fascinating analogy that compares cuckoo birds, nature’s master manipulator and imposter, to situations and relationships that leave us feeling drained, confused, lost, and empty. Her new book, The Cuckoo Syndrome, helps us fend off the cuckoos, the unhealthy relationships, toxic thinking, and self-sabotaging behaviors in our life that never truly satisfy the deep longings of our souls and the desires of our hearts. 

Andrea’s clinically proven, innovative method helps us recover the lost pieces of ourselves, discover meaning in suffering, and transform our pain into purpose by teaching us to uncover the truth of who we are and who God is so we can be healed and live free. 

Purchase the book Andrea’s clients call “a life-changing breakthrough” for yourself and the people you care about today.

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If you….

Feel internal pressure to do all things well. 

Tend to neglect your needs to please others and search for validation.

Continually attract toxic or one-sided relationships leaving you drained. 

Want to build a life that is unashamedly true to who you are and what you want.


Then…this is the time to reclaim your JOY, ENERGY, AND TIME so you can live each day with peace and purpose!


Curious to know how?

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