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."