In a previous article, “Denial and Its Power,” we talked about the power of denial, which is a defense mechanism. Here, we look at one of the most commonly used defense mechanisms that are employed by women who actually enhance their own emotional suffering. You’ve suffered enough from the Pathological Love Relationship, and the last thing you need is for your own psychology to work against you. Today we’re going to talk about fantasy and how that, too, can play with your mind and cause emotional suffering. Eckhart Tolle said, “Emotional suffering is created in the moment we don’t accept what is.”
Women who are in relationships with pathologicals have a very strong trait of fantasy. Fantasy is not just merely wishful thinking. Fantasy has other components in it that affect your here-and-now life. Fantasy is often associated with the future and, in some ways, the past.
A woman will often stay in a Pathological Love Relationship because she feels panic or fear of abandonment when she or the pathological tries to end the relationship. She ends up re-contacting, or allowing him to re-contact her, because of these feelings of fear, panic and abandonment.
Abandonment is an early childhood feeling. As adults, we don’t technically feel ‘abandoned’, nor are we really capable of being abandoned (unless you are, for instance, medically dependent). The reason we aren’t capable of being abandoned as adults is that, as mentally healthy adults, we really can’t be abandoned in the ‘childhood sense’. That feeling is an early-childhood feeling usually associated with a time of adult or parental abandonment. It is an age-regression feeling—something that pulls you back to your childhood or to a very young emotional state.
The feeling of ending an opposite-sex relationship often subconsciously sets off childhood feelings of abandonment. These are past associations and they tap into the fantasy that the abandonment is happening all over again when it really isn’t. The childhood abandonment by a previous male in your life is not the same thing as a pathological leaving your adult life.
But internally, that childhood feeling is so strong that it feels like a ‘hole in the soul’. The fantasy of THIS being the same as THAT takes hold and your panic makes you go back or allows him back in.
Fantasy is also future-oriented. Fairytales are fantasy and are based on “Once upon a time…” and “…happily ever after,” which is all the good stuff that might happen in the future. Nothing evokes stronger fantasy thinking than the holidays, which bring up either good memories of holidays past or the total fantasy that THIS year will be the “Once Upon a Time” holiday.
Women stay in relationships with pathologicals based on a lot of ‘fantasy future betting’ —that is, “he might stop acting pathological”, “he might marry me”, “he might stop cheating”, “he might tell the truth”. Fantasy betting is a lot like gambling… betting on a future that is not likely to happen with a pathological.
Why? Because pathology is the inability to change and sustain change and grow in any meaningful way, and the inability to for him to see how his behavior negatively affects others.
But women also stay in Pathological Love Relationships based on ‘projected fantasies’. They fantasize that he will be happy with the NEXT woman and SHE will get all his good traits and none of his bad. This too is fantasy… that his pathology somehow will not affect HER the way it affects you. (Pathology can’t be turned on and off like a light switch!)
Here are the facts:
Pathology affects EVERYONE the SAME!! (Unless the woman is pathological as well— then who cares if he goes on to have a relationship worthy of a Jerry Springer Show?)
- Women fantasize that this ‘abandonment’ feeling will affect them the way the childhood abandonment did. But, FYI: it will not!
- Women fantasize that he will be different with them. But if he is truly pathological he is hardwired; this IS his DNA.
- Women fantasize that he will be happy in the future and they are missing out on something. But if he is truly pathological, his patterns don’t change.
Fantasy is not the here and now. It’s not being present in the real life that is happening around you in this moment. It’s ‘out there, somewhere’ kind of thinking. Come back to what’s real right now. List the 5 most real points about him here:
Now stand back, step out of the childhood feelings, and look at the list with adult eyes. You can’t be abandoned as an adult, because wherever you go, there you are, and you are all you need as an adult. You don’t have dependency needs as an adult like you did as a child. To be abandoned is to be dependent on the one who is abandoning. Adults are not dependent.
Your real life is going on right NOW while you are in your head about his drama and the pathological intrigue. You are MISSING your real life that is happening right now! Drama, obsession and intrusive thoughts are usually about fantasy—the past or the present. They sure aren’t about this present moment and what’s happening right now. You might be ignoring your own health, your own self-care and happiness, and maybe that of your children and friends because of how much time you spend in fantasy. Fantasy is telling you “just a little longer and he’ll get it, and then I’ll have the life I really want.”
Your life is right now—not back there and not up there in the future.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)