Mental health and fantasy

  1. 0
    I have a question that I'm posing to the psychiatric nurses in particular because I figure that this is their area of expertise.

    Michael Shurtleff, in tutoring actors, teaches that we can only truly understand the psychology and behavior of a person by understanding their own fantasy world.

    "We don't live for realities but for fantasies, the dreams of what might be. If we lived for realities, we'd be dead, every last one of us. Only dreams keep us going."

    "We have our own truths to face all the time, unattractive and unappealing, so that it takes every once of imagination to create some sort of dream to hold on to, however foolish, however unlikely, however hidden. People live for dreams, not the oppressiveness of truths."

    This is of interest to me because it implies that mentally healthy human beings live in fantasy. That is, in order to survive and to function effeciently in every day life, the human psyche must implement a fantasy world for itself to soften realities. Sort of like, we must have rose-colored glasses in order to survive.

    Thus, while mentally unhealthy people use more disruptive, extreme fanatsy coping mechanisms(delusions, personality disorders, ect) to deal with harsh truths, mentally healthy persons use a less extreme fanatsy coping mechanism; that is, they make their everyday life fantastic by fantasizing about self-worth, self-importance they are or how great their future plans are, ect.

    Do you think this is true? Is a necessary compenent of being mentally healthy and stable being able to make real life in to your own fantasy?

    If so, this means it is necessary to confirm and suppport peoples' fantasies about themselves in order for them to live a healthy life. It also means that fantasizing reality is a necessary part of survival.

    This question means a lot to me so I really would appreciate people's input here and would be really greatful for whatever you can tell me about what your experience has been of human fantasy and mental health.
    Last edit by susanna on Jun 20, '04

    Get the hottest topics every week!

    Subscribe to our free Nursing Insights newsletter.

  2. 0
    Neat question!

    I personally think that people do all operate on fantasy on one level or another. One example that occurs to me is how most of us operate on a feeling of invincibility or immortality. We function well in the world because we are not paralyzed by thoughts of death. Later in life, when the fantasy is more difficult to support, we have the option of remaining mentally healthy by coming to terms with our lives and feeling fulfilled (Erikson stuff) or feeling despondent over our lack of/perceived lack of accomplishment and becoming depressed and less able to function in our daily lives.

    This particular fantasy also allows us to continue to live our lives in a world of increasing uncertainly. I would go so far as to say those who cannot put on the rose-colored glasses of fantasy are the ones who become depressed or otherwise mentally unhealthy - seeking solace through drugs/alcohol, etc.

    Is this what your aiming at?
  3. 0
    I agree that we all use fantasy and a whole variety of coping mechanisms and defenses to get through everyday life. Some of us use healthier coping mechanisms and defenses, and some of us use less healthy coping mechanisms and defenses ...
  4. 0
    Quote from Nurse Ratched
    This particular fantasy also allows us to continue to live our lives in a world of increasing uncertainly. I would go so far as to say those who cannot put on the rose-colored glasses of fantasy are the ones who become depressed or otherwise mentally unhealthy - seeking solace through drugs/alcohol, etc.

    Is this what your aiming at?
    Yeah! This is the idea that I was aiming at. Thanks for your input. It is much appreciated as most everyday people don't wish to philosophically analyze their perspectives in terms of fantasizing/not fantasizing(Partly because I think fantasizing has a negative connotation to it, ie. fantasizing about chocolate ice cream, fantasizing about sex, no, no, I'm not talking about that kind of fantasizing peoples, this isn't an inappropriate thread, please stay...)

    But I think that if it is true and if a great deal of life's happiness and good feeling come from human fantasizing, then it is useful for me to acknowledge the importance of this mechanism in all humans and maybe it will help me in nursing unhappy persons if I ever work in psych.

    We alwalys say, Gotta deal with reality, but I think it more so means, Gotta deal with the part of reality that we can deal with and then escape the rest. Maybe it would effect human relations for the better on if people acknowledged that seeing life through fantasy(especially ones of self-worth and unique meaning in this world) is necessary to human survival? But thats going too far for now: I really want just input on what people make of the role of fantasy.
  5. 0
    We alwalys say, Gotta deal with reality, but I think it more so means, Gotta deal with the part of reality that we can deal with and then escape the rest. Maybe it would effect human relations for the better on if people acknowledged that seeing life through fantasy(especially ones of self-worth and unique meaning in this world) is necessary to human survival? But thats going too far for now: I really want just input on what people make of the role of fantasy.
    I would go so far as to say that there really is no "dealing with reality" apart from our coping skills/defense mechanisms (which is how I am interpreting your use of the term "fantasy," as opposed to the idea of sitting around, consciously daydreaming about something pleasant, as you noted earlier in your post ...)

    As humans, we have only two physiological responses to any situation -- activation of the sympathetic nervous system or activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. In any given situation, or dealing with any other person, the only two options available are a mild --> strong sympathetic response (somewhere along the continuum of mild to strong, that is) or a mild --> strong parasympathetic response. The entire galaxy of feelings and emotions we experience as human beings are the result of the meaning we apply to these physiological responses in a given situation -- e.g., alone on a dark street in a strange city at night, your brain interprets feeling a little shaky and weak in the knees while your pulse races as being scared. Walking arm in arm in the moonlight with someone you're attracted to, your brain interprets feeling a little shaky and weak in the knees while your pulse races as falling in love ... Same physiological response -- different meaning, based on the situation, past experiences with similar situations, what you've heard about other people's experiences in similar situations, etc., etc., etc. ...

    You could make the case that, in the same way that most of our communication with each other is the nonverbal components, and the actual spoken words only comprise some ridiculously small percentage of the "information" exchanged, only a small amount of what we "experience" of the world consists of the actual events taking place, and most of it is our interpretation of the meaning of what's going on around us. So, in that case, what is reality?

    All of us use coping mechanisms and defenses all day every day -- our brains do it automatically. The trick is to try to have (and, in psych nursing, to try to help others develop) healthier and more functional coping styles, rather than the dysfunctional styles that we define as "mental illness."
  6. 0
    I think the point should be made here though that the difference between my fantasising about being king of the world and a patient's delusions about being king of the world are that I am aware that I am fantasising whereas the patient believes it to be true (with varying degrees of conviction, granted). There's also the question of functioning - I can fantasise about being king of the world without it affecting my relationships, my employment, my social interactions &c. This is not generally the case for patients who believe they are king of the world.

    There is a theory that grandiose delusions such as I describe are a protection against negative self-evaluations. You could say my fantasy about being king of the world acts in a similar way. Delusions, IMO, are on a continuum with "normal" thought. They may be qualitatively different for all the reasons I have outlined, but they stem from similar processes
  7. 0
    Mental illness occurs when a person is so immersed in their fantasy that they can't interact meaningfully with reality enough to meet their goals. If fantasy HELPS them acheive their goals it is useful, but if it keeps them from happiness it is dysfunctional, and consequently a sign of mental illness.
  8. 0
    Its cools that the psych nurses here are actually responding. I thought this thread might have been too boring or unclear for people to respond to. I especially liked elkpark's sympathetic/parasympathetic explanation of perception and reality interpretation. In all, Im glad Im getting responses supporting my arguement here and I fear when someone sucessfully negates my arguement(even tho im looking for it) because that will turn around my whole theory of human existence and why humans act the way they do.

    If anyone is wondering, I'm so interested in fantasy(thinking yourself and things in your life as being fantastic to the point of wavering around fantasy) because I think it implies a great importance of human ego and its role in survival. Im praticulary obsessed with them because i think it provides the key to positive human relations.

    My question is, "Why do people defend so viciously and so angrily when they ego is ever so slightly attacked?" I mean, an attack on one's ego is really not something that causes much objective harm, yet, I think its something people are most likely to react the most angrily to and what people will defend and protect to the end, even when they are obviously in the wrong and hurting others. I guess its what some may call "being proud". I think the answer lies within the role of fantasy: Its necesaaary for normal, healthy people to think that they are grandiose in some manner or another/to be proud for them to function in life. Thus, if this is true, to be a trustworthy communicator and caregiver, its important to realise where people's fantasms lay and not to challenge them and to even encourage them.
  9. 0
    Quote from canoehead
    Mental illness occurs when a person is so immersed in their fantasy that they can't interact meaningfully with reality enough to meet their goals. If fantasy HELPS them acheive their goals it is useful, but if it keeps them from happiness it is dysfunctional, and consequently a sign of mental illness.
    Interesting take on mental illness, but I'm afraid I don't think delusional thinking can be classed as 'fantasy', not unless you accept that any belief (such as the world being round, needing oxygen to live) is a 'fantasy' as well.
  10. 0
    There are people who believe the world is flat, but it doesn't interfere with their daily lives, and therefore they are not classed as mentally ill.

    Take religious and non religious groups- one or the other could be classed as mentally ill depending on your take of the world. But they are still able to be productive members of society- so no one says they're crazy until they start blowing up stuff.

    Remember that human behavior is on a continuum, but mental illness is more of a yes/no question. We will always have eccentrics that could arguably be on one side or the other. It seems society is willing to let these sleeping dogs lie unless they become a burden or interfere with other people's lives.


Nursing Jobs in every specialty and state. Visit today and Create Job Alerts, Manage Your Resume, and Apply for Jobs.

A Big Thank You To Our Sponsors
Top