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Creating fantasy world

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Carmex01's picture
Creating fantasy world

Hi all, 


Has anyone had experience with their PP/LO creating a 'fantasy world'? Mine had a particularly unstable childhood and has created what I can only describe as a fantasy world. Thing is this fantasty scenario is particularly less 'desirable' than what his life actually was. He was adopted and raised in one state- but is adament that he was raised in a much rougher, gang-ridden place in California. His family are at a loss as to why he is so fascinated with this particular place, he even has various tattoos, scenarios, stories etc to support his claim. His family has suggested it's a way he's kept himself sane through long periods of isolation? Perhaps glorifying gang violence? He also has severe PTSD, ADHD and is Bipolar (apparently). If this is a form of ecapism, wouln't he want to escape from this less-desirable scanario? Any ideas?

Taurus_ISTJ's picture

“If this is a form of ecapism, wouldn't he want to escape from this less-desirable scanario?”

Or the ripples from trauma. And though we might try our damnedest, we will not succeed in making logical sense of what neither is logical nor follows a form (trauma). As you point out his being an adoptee, I would take leave to mention that adoption in and of itself is trauma, though it is something we in society do not speak enough about. Former foster youth and adoptees struggle to find room or resonance for the full complexities, the full spectrum, of their feelings. Please read that piece if you have time.

One thing I would point out, respectfully, is that it is your judgment that the fantasy world is or would be (quote) less desirable. How does your loved one and pen pal feel about that world? What does his eye see? What feelings or senses (of comfort, of safety, of familiarity, of communion?) does it elicit in him? What could be the unmet needs the fantasy meets that aren’t being met by the circumstances of his real life? Where you see a much rougher, gang-ridden place in California, nothing more, he may see an entirely different picture, that comes alive for him in a way the cracks showing through the surface only give it more character. Maybe his body remembers that place, maybe his origin family hails from there or spent time among those streets, or he imagines they did, anyway, and the grasping for it brings him somehow closer to a lost identity. Maybe the very pretense of belonging to that world brings him closer to any identity at all. Maybe from those who do belong to it he feels to derive a greater sense of understanding. Or, maybe, a lot of things. 

Maybe it is a matter of survival. And not only of survival in prison, but survival of (a) self.

Or, conversely, maybe, very simply, very surface-level, he is lying to kick it. 

PTSD, ADHD, BD (bipolar), they are DSM diagnoses, medical diagnoses, but to know his diagnoses here shines no more illuminating a light.

Maybe it bears mentioning that foster youth will often recreate (or attempt to recreate) the circumstances of the environments they were displaced from, even when less (to us) desirable or having been deemed unfit, negligent, or insufficient, due to a sense of familiarity (and, often, connection) with those circumstances. Often, a sense of comfort is derived from the familiarity, though the behaviors (the attempts at recreation) can at times be very puzzling. And you might ask the same thing there, “But why this? Why would you want this over something... more desirable?” But it’s the familiarity; they’re more comfortable in the familiarity, in what they have always known or either have had to get used to, and being in the new environment (with new faces) is foreign so very scary. They’re waiting, perpetually, for the other shoe to drop.

Taurus_ISTJ's picture

However, if it is a form of escapism, then of course it also is, I suppose, and our forms of escapism do not have to be desirable to or thought desirable by others. As long as they are not harmful to ourselves or others and/or presenting a threat.

Does it appear harmful?

Taurus_ISTJ's picture

If this is your pen pal and loved one with the violent outbursts, it might also be something like a glorification of violence (accesssed, in this case, through gang culture). 

Carmen163's picture

Well, I can tell you about my own fantasy, that also may have looked like less-desirable than my actual life. As a teenager I would fantasize about living in a juvenile care home. But actually, I was living with my mom and dad and brother in a normal house. So why would I want to live in such a less-desirable situation? Well, it was much more aligned with my inner thoughts and feelings. I felt like I had no parents; my dad had paranoid schizofrenic disorder, my mom was not capable of dealing with him and my brother was not allowed to interact with me, because then my father would go into a fit. 

So to me, a juvenile care home seemed like the best thing ever. I would not have my parents around, but professionals, somewhat like the teachers at school I gathered. Basicly friendly and helpful people, maybe a bit stricter than my parents, but I wouldn't mind that. And the main thing was that there would be people just like me, misfits with problems at home. Not so far from my house there was such a facility and I just adored the girls and boys who lived there, they all looked so cool and tragic and artistic and well... different. So I would endlessly fantasize about coming home at that facility and how the coolest boy there would fall in love with me and how he would play guitar and how the care takers would join in when all of us were in the sitting room, having deep conversations and they would understand our problems, since it was their job.

So you see why for me this was a far more desirable situation than the one I was in, although on the outside it might have looked the other way around. As Taurus has explained, your LO probably sees something different than most people do if they think about gangs. A gang is a family, with honour and codes and certainly no parents who toss you aside as a little kid. I don't know of course, these are just my thoughts. From my own experience I would say that I fantasized about familiar feelings I couldn't cope with, I just put them in a nicer and more suitable setting. 

I hope your LO can some day feel at peace in how own real life situation. I'm still working at it, but it's getting better and better. 

mjuran's picture

I was about to say something along the same lines as Carmen163.  Fantasies can be more about what we relate to or identify with, than with what we desire to escape to as fantasy.  Or, the escapist fantasy can be more desirable (to the individual) than their actual reality, despite how it appears the opposite from the viewpoint of the outsider.

I spent my childhood fantasizing about running away and living in a van or some makeshift shelter, on my own, even though I had a roof over my head and two parents and a sibling.  To my mind then, and even now, living as a homeless 8 year old on the street might have been better than the life I did have.  It's not something most people will easily grasp.  I never actually believed myself to have been a homeless runaway, though.  The inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality is what's a little more troubling.  

I have a pen pal who has what sounds like a similar fantasy--he was adopted soon after birth by a "norma", loving family, but has always maintained to everyone that he's in close contact with his "real, birth-family" (who are mafiosi and who were acctually the ones who committed his crimes, naturally.)  So that's all very weird.  I think people's fantasies usually have to do with how they see themselves, symbolically or metaphorically, more than with what they actually desire.

Kirsten's picture

Well, you know, I don't find it easy to speculate on the whys, because there are millions of possibilities for that, some mentally pathological, some not.

But whatever it is or might be in his case, I think it would be pretty safe to assume that he nneds it or gets sth.out of it he doesn't seem to get in any other way..

So, my approach would be to leave him in that world,but to gently and carefully explore what is happening in that world with or to him. Thereby you might get valuable hints on what it is that he gets and that draws him in there. But a note of caution to you: It's important that you leave your evaluations and judgments out of it as much as possible.

It's not "good" or "bad" to be in there for him, it may, for whatever reason, be necessary. If it wasn't, he probably wouldn't create it.

I remember a time in my life when I also had my little, well, fantasy place to go to and do and say everything I couldn't at the time in real life. The difference was that I always knew which was which and where I was at a given time, i never lost control over it. But if I hadn't had these, (well, what to call it best?) vacancy trips from outer reality, it would#ve been much harder to cope with what was going on around me. So, you might say I was daydreaming or fantasizing to keep my resilience intact. But you know what the fun fact of this is? Parts of what I kept on imagining for myself and my future, became true. When I look around in my life today, I can clearly see some elements of what the 17 year old me fantasized. Not everything, no,(maybe better that way, *lol*), but some core elements for sure.

It makes no sense  to lead him out of this, if the surrogate ain't worth it. Keep that in mind when you decide what to do.

Carmex01's picture

Hi all (again)!

Thank you all so much for the (very) useful insights- it definintely provided for a fresh outlook and perspective on the situation. I absolutely agree with the fact that his chosen 'fantasy' world was something he identified with more. He'd tell me vivid stories of how he grew up, the details of him crime (having shot someone), his friends being killed on the streets, his sporting accolades etc. When in fact, none of it was actually true. His charges were actually based on a voilent situation with a woman, twice- not shooting someone in gang-related activity- (I think he's forgotten that there isn't much you can't find on the internet). This is a blatant lie- perhaps driven by said fantasy world- nevertheless a deal-breaking lie. When confronted, albeing calmly and non-accusatory, his short fuse was lit, I was abused and given the silent treatment until I eventually made amends. He stated that he can't talk about the details of his case on a recorded conversation- also a lie, because he's openly talked about the gang-related crime he convinced himself he was involved in. He then stated he 'didn't want to talk about it' and he 'wasn't there yet' when it came to telling me the details of his charges, somewhat fair, given the nature of the crime and his subsequent embarrassment- still, a lie of that magnitude is, in my eyes- unforgivable. Voilence against women is a trigger for me and had I known this was the reality of his situation I may not have contacted him in the first place. On the flip side of that- considering the progress of our relationship, had he taken the opportunity to be upfront and honest, and admit his lie, I maybe would have been able to process this differently. We has spoken about a future together- how could he actually think i'd never find out? He was very supportive of me staying in contact with his grandmother- who was actually the one who disclosed the truth, this doesn't make a great deal of sense. Unfortunately i've had to walk away from the situation, it's become toxic, to a point where I can no longer thrive in the relationship. Saddest part is he didn't seem that phased by it. Thanks again for all the insights!