Fantasy and the Challenge of Recovery

This dialogue between sexual addiction professionals raised an interesting question about how to address the challenge of fantasy in addiction recovery.

Brett speaks first:

Exchanging Fantasy for Vision: I’m interested in knowing what others think and feel about this and how they encourage those under their guidance to break free from focusing on “walking around backwards” (focus on the past and moving away from something) and begin the journey of moving forward with a vision of something to strive towards. Sobriety from acting out behaviors, viewing porn, changing people, places, and things, and revisiting old wounds for understanding the driving pain are no doubt vital parts to the recovery journey, but, what are your thoughts on an individual seeking “VISION” in the steps that lie ahead – timing, length of sobriety, degree of healing and forgiveness, etc.?

Cory responds:

I encourage my clients to use imagination “vision” at the very beginning to “see” themselves restored and healthy. It is not about trying harder it is about seeing themselves completing the steps. Seeing themselves and believing that they can be healthy and successful in their sobriety, personal and professional relationships. An addict fantasies and rehearses acting out long before they ever do it. Turning this “ability” around into imagination or vision to their advantage is very powerful.

I respond:

I have a concern about “vision”. Sexual addiction is a disease of the imagination. I so often hear “vision” and think “fantasy”. Why surrender “goal” to “vision”. Goal is an act of the imagination as well. What distinguishes it from Vision is that it comes with concrete measurable outcomes.

People struggling with an addictive process need a road map with clear, unambiguous sign-posts along the way.

This may be a matter of semantics. Bret when you reference “Vision” you may intend an imagined future with concrete, measurable outcomes. But when I hear the word Vision, I think of distant longing backed by an emotional investment as a way of avoiding the work that is immediately before me.

I think it is important to keep forward movement in recovery very clear and near-term.

Cory, you reference how the addictive process includes fantasy as a part of the cycle of addiction. Fantasy is a function of avoidance. One escapes into fantasy as an alternative to engagement with real people in a real moment to address real challenges.

A quick work about when vision is meaningful. “Vision” is a biblical concept (“where there is no vision the people perish”). Moderns who have live on the this side of the Enlightenment, tend to interpret “Vision” as something an Individual does. This degrades a healthy concept of the term.

As a Hebrew expression, the term, “vision” is not a function of the individual imagination. Vision is a constellation of meaning that emerges through engagement with community. The community is confronted with a challenge that only the community can resolve. Individuals come together to engage one another in robust dialogue — typically involving conflicting ideas rooted in diverging interests. One person may give voice to it, but “Vision” rises out of community, not out of an individual.

This act of community engagement is something a person struggling with an addictive process simply cannot do. The ability to engage others in healthy ways is a recovery challenge.

Rather than encourage a person struggling with an addictive process to invest in fantasy/visioning, I recommend establishing concrete, specific goals that will eventually empower them to engage life in community in healthy ways so that they may be caught up in a Vision born of the community that gives expression to something higher than themselves.


Image by Ishtaure Dawn

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