How to Stop Fantasizing in 4 Steps
Fantasies and daydreams are closely linked together. While they aren't perfectly synonymous terms, they do both involve imaging a hypothetical situation or series of events in the mind's eye for a prolonged period of time.
What important to note is that neither fantasies or daydreams are per se maladaptive. In fact, fantasies and daydreams are perfectly rationale and adaptive things to do if they are limited in duration and can help you plan our your real life.
For example, if you go out on a date with someone you may fantasize about them later; imagining what it would perhaps be like to live together, how your schedules would intermingle, and how your individual values could blend. This kind of fantasy is rational and adaptive because it helps you plan for the future by trying to play out how a relationship could hypothetically unfold (so, if you see conflict on the horizon you can get out of the relationship before it goes on for too long).
Likewise, if you're currently in college and studying chemistry you may fantasize about being a doctor. This is perfectly rational and adaptive because you're trying to play out in your mind - in the limited way that you can - what the pros and cons of being a doctor are, and whether this is something you'd really like to dedicate a non-trivial amount of your life towards.
However, with all of that being said, fantasies can quickly from being rational and adaptive to irrational and maladaptive. This can occur because:
- One's fantasies have grown abstract and no longer serve any useful purpose (e.g., your fantasizing about being an entirely different person)
- One's fantasies are taking up an increasingly large part of one's day
- One's fantasies are actively harming one's life; perhaps by making them distracted during school, work, or social gatherings
Fantasies almost never start as maladaptive. instead, they start as pleasant endeavours that slowly morph over time.
Fortunately, the way in which you stop fantasies is not that different that how you stop maladaptive daydreaming (as both, practically, are very similar if the fantasies are excessive).
While I've written a whole book on maladaptive daydreaming - which would certainly be helpful for those looking to stop their fantasies - below is a short four-step process you can being to implement right away:
How to Stop Fantasizing
In this post we'll be covering a four-step process for overcoming one's maladaptive daydreams. If you'd like to go directly to any one of the steps, you can click the links below:
One of the remarkable things about fantasies is that individuals will play them through in the head for endless hours, but never actually write down what they are.
This is partly because when fantasies remain in your head they keep themselves as purely locked away inside of you. When you commit your fantasies or daydreams to paper, they suddenly become more real.
Many of those who maladaptive daydream find the process of actually writing down their daydreams to be remarkably embarrassing, even if they never show what they've written to anyone.
Chances are when you write down your fantasies - using pen and paper - you'll be slightly embarrassing about what you write. You may even feel a nagging pull to not write down the full extent of your fantasies as it's too embarrassing to even admit to yourself.
Note: If you have excessive fantasies, it may also be helpful to complete the maladaptive daydreaming test as well.
The next step is to try to study your fantasies and ask yourself why they rationally could be occurring.
Almost all daydreams and fantasies have some kind of rational basis, even if they seem on the surface to be entirely irrational.
For example, if you fantasize about being a famous actor, singer, or sports start that seems entirely irrational (in particular if you have no talent in those areas!). However, it could be viewed as a rational consequence of wanting to feel pride in what you do, or to be admired by strangers.
Just like in step one, take out a pen and paper and begin to explore rational reasons for how your fantasies.
If you need a little help, try answering the following questions:
- How could my fantasies have actually helped me at one point?
- What attributes do the main characters in my fantasies have that I do not have in real life?
- Why am I fantasizing about things that are so far-fetched? Why aren't I fantasizing about things that are more likely to happen in the future?
In step two you will hopefully have come up with a few rational reasons for your fantasies having arisen. In order to stop your fantasies, you can use these rational reasons to turn your fantasies upside down.
So, for example, if you were to fantasize about being a famous celebrity of some kind (as we discussed before) you may have said the rational reason for why you began down this path of fantasy was because you wanted to be admired by strangers.
To stop your fantasies, you can fantasize about the downsides of celebrity. Including that not everyone will like you. In fact, quite the opposite! Try fantasizing about what the terrible days of being a celebrity would be like; the anxiety, stress, and self-doubt that occurs for all of them.
Likewise, if you fantasize about being in a relationship with someone, you can imagine those mundane days you would spend with them in which their worst attributes were clearly on display.
In the end, almost everyone engaging in fantasies because they are comforting. Because of this, almost all fantasies involve lots of happy or rewarding moments with very few (in any) troubling aspects.
What you're doing in this step is not turning your fantasy into a nightmare, but rather just making your fantasy less appealing by illustrating to yourself the downsides of this hypothetical life you're fantasizing about.
It may all seem a bit silly to try to consciously trick your brain like this. But remember that excessive fantasizing - like maladaptive daydreaming - is itself irrational. If it were easy to stop, then everyone would! However, since it's not easy to stop these intrusive thoughts you need to play these little tricks on yourself to make your fantasies less appealing.
The final step involves creating a circuit breaker for your fantasies. What this means is trying to create some way to stop from continuing your fantasies while you're in the midst of them.
In other words, don't bring your fantasies to their natural end. Instead, as soon as you realize you're drifting into a fantasy attempt to stop it right away.
The best way to do this is to take multiple deep breaths in and out while trying to clear your mind whenever you realize you're fantasizing about something. Alternatively, you could begin playing a certain kind of music, checking the news, or otherwise trying to distract yourself.
What you want to begin to do is be able to notice when you're fantasizing and never let the fantasies reach their organic conclusion. This will make engaging in the fantasies to begin with much less appealing.
The difficult reality of stopping fantasies is that it really shouldn't be that hard, but yet it is.
The best way to stop fantasizing about something is to try to rationally deconstruct why these fantasies began in the first place and then utilize what you're learned through that process to make your fantasies less appealing. Finally, you can institute a circuit breaker, as discussed in step four, to make sure that whenever you engage in fantasies you have an ability to stop it before it reaches its natural conclusion (thus making future fantasies much less appealing).
Stopping fantasies can seem like a daunting task. Many try to do it for months or years unsuccessfully. But when you follow a system - even a simple one like what was discussed above - it can make it all much easier.
If you want even more tricks and techniques for stopping intrusive and distracting thoughts, the maladaptive daydreaming book will undoubtably contain some very helpful guidelines. Many have gone through the book due to their excessive fantasies because ultimately both fantasizing and maladaptive daydreaming involve having unwanted thoughts entering the mind, thus distracting one from fully living out their real life.
As always, I wish you the very best of luck!