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  Fantasy is viewed in various ways by different psychological schools. Sexual desires and aggressive impulses can be satiated by conscious fantasy; they can be as pleasurable, explicit or frightening as we want to make them. They are seen as a safety net which holds bad parts of the inner self, and are used this way in literature, science and everyday action.

Psychoanalysts distinguish between ‘fantasy’, daydreaming, imagining (which is synonymous with neurotic daydreaming) and unconscious ‘phantasy’, an imaginative activity which underlies all thought and feeling. All psychodynamic schools agree that conscious mental activity is accompanied, supported and enlived by unconscious phantasy. In Freudian analysis phantasies might be oral, anal, libidinal, infantile, or hysterical. Kleinian psychoanalysis works with the unconscious phantasies based on observance of object relations that the patient brings, and examines how these relate to past and present experience.

Jung also saw that phantasy, developed in childhood, prevented growth. Phantasy occurs in childhood as a way of dealing with real conflicts in the family which are too difficult and painful to deal with directly.

Gestalt sees fantasy as a middle zone of awareness. In fantasy we are trying to actualize our self-image, not our actual self, and growth is distorted and inauthentic. Characterized by internal debates and talking to oneself, it is a substitute for engaging with the real situation. Fantasy neutralizes the future by creating catastrophic or optimistic scenarios, and such mental activity will often provoke anxiety. MJ



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