Fantasy and the Epidemic of Loneliness – Pt1

In our loneliness, deficit, or discontent, we often imagine things as we want them to be, and not as they are. Fantasy often obscures our sense of what is real and what is not, particularly in relationships.

How many of us remember as children pretending to be princesses in a castle waiting for our princes to come and take us away to happily ever after? Or perhaps you imagined being a child astronaut rocketing way beyond the Milky Way and returning home to accolades and fanfare. Maybe you saw yourself as a doctor, lawyer, police officer, someone else, or anywhere else outside of your reality. This type of fantasy is a part of a child’s healthy development and is sometimes used as a way to cope. We carry this creativity into adulthood as attainable hopes for the future. But when our dreams and desires are rooted in desperation and deficits, our reality and fantasy can collide in unhealthy ways.


I recognized this after hearing a news broadcaster mention an “epidemic of loneliness” that many are believed to be experiencing currently. Days, later I was listening to a podcaster interview a woman who fell in love with, and eventually married, an AI chatbot that she created. I was intrigued and stunned! After trying to Google the transcript, I found an article of a man who also fell in love with an AI woman – an image he created in his head – A FANTASY. Both subjects felt alone in their long-distance relationship, and marriage (respectively), and both knew full well that they were becoming emotionally involved with an illusion. The reason they continued with this fantastic relationship was mostly motivated by the brain’s inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. (This is true for everyone – our brains can’t differentiate between fantasy and fallacy; that’s why we have psychological responses to bad dreams, thoughts, and even movies.) But this lack of distinction is where the problem lies. In our loneliness, deficit, or discontent, we often imagine things as we want them to be, not as they are. Fantasy often obscures our sense of what is real and what is not, particularly in relationships.


Imagine how often we have done this – fallen in love with the idea of a person, despite the reality of the person. Think about it. Have you ever begun dating someone and immediately created a whole future for the two of you after just a few conversations or a date? You’ve imagined what they would be like, how they would treat you, the things that you would do together, and perhaps even the family and friend circle that you’d share and create. This fantasy, if created out of desperation, can be problematic for several reasons. You begin to base your perception of this person on your deficits, rather than who they truly are. If you’re lonely – which I found is a common reason for people wanting to enter a relationship – you would imagine your potential partner to always be emotionally available. If you have financial lack, then perhaps you would imagine them to be financially giving. If you lack emotional security, then they would appear to be extremely affectionate and affirming. You’ve now created scenarios in your head of them meeting your most desperate needs and as you meditate on those hopes, it reinforces your attachment to this person (by the oxytocin being released in the brain). This emotional attachment weakens your intuition which is created to protect you by recognizing red flags and character flaws. And viola! Your deficits, your lack have created the ideal person – PERFECT, like the AI bots – meeting your deep needs, loving you, and doing no wrong – which may be far from reality.


And the cycle continues until we often find ourselves paired with a person we may not like, we do not really know, or worse, who has harmed us (remember, you most likely missed the red flags). In the case of the two people who married their AI characters (mentioned at the beginning of this blog), one is getting a divorce and the other is becoming more distant from their real life partner. Although attachment is very normal within the first few months of romantic attraction, the negative effects of seeking romance out of loneliness, out of lack, or from your deficits are very avoidable. Even if you have experienced this in a past relationship and the results has forever changed your life, there is hope that you can interrupt the cycle so that you can have healthier relationships in the future.  


Feel free to reach out to me for coaching on this topic.


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