Using fantasy role-play to manage your emotions is a powerful tool.
By Emma Valasco, Post-graduate Sex Therapist, London, England
None of us can alter the past, we can alter how we feel about the past!
I often hear how essential it is for children to use their imaginations. However, adults can advantageously use thoughts and fantasy to handle their emotions and feel better. In fact, the use of fantasy is one-way trauma therapists heal psychological wounds.
Astounding scientific fact:
The brain cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
Picture yourself running, and the evidence shows your brain reacting as if you are in running. This goes some way to explaining why using imagination and fantasy is a powerful tool for feeling better.
Don’t believe me? Try this quick test:
Take four or five deep breaths and conjure up a colourful image of someone or something that makes you happy: your partner or best friend, eating your favourite food or listening to your favourite song — anything that makes you feel good. Stay with that image and keep honing it.
Now, did you notice a positive change in your physical state? Did your breathing or heart rate change? Do you feel warmer? More relaxed? Well done! You just used the power of thought to make something physical happen and feel better, physically. This technique is known to be extremely good at boosting the sense of emotional well being. Our society has a bias against adults using fantasy and imaginative play. Why? Because society considers fantasising to be morally wrong as it can lead to fantasising about taboo subjects.
A big taboo around fantasising is around sexual fantasies. Almost everyone I have spoken with about sex feels guilty about their sexual fantasies.
What if you could use fantasy without guilt or shame and be free to fantasise to feel better? That’s part of what I (and other therapists) advocate. Four ways you can use your imagination to feel better:
1. Imagine a quiet place to calm down
When you’re upset, imagine as vividly as possible a serene, comfortable place of your choosing, and breathe deeply. Feel yourself relax. Add sensations to make your fantasy more realistic.
For example, if you’re imagining the beach, smell the salty air and feel the breeze on your skin.
2. Discharge anger by imagining what you feel like doing to the person who angered you
Your core authentic Self is loving and compassionate. But when anger is triggered, you are overtaken by a specific biological agenda: you want to attack in order to defend and protect yourself! To safely release the concentrated emotional energy in your system, try imagining what your anger “wants to do.”
When I was 5 years old I would hit my younger brother when he was getting the attention I wanted. My mother taught me it was absolutely fine to be angry with my brother, but it was not okay for me to hit him. She taught, “we don’t hit people!” She bought me a blow-up punch bag and told me I could pretend it was my sister and punch it all I wanted! I loved this idea.
I remember this lesson even though it was 28 years ago. Mum was ahead of her time in many ways — she knew making me feel guilty would only fuel negative feelings between my brother and me. Giving me an opening for my imagination turned something toxic into play. My brother and I have remained very close.
3. Imagine your very own custom made person who loves you exactly as you need
When you are feeling sad and down, try imagining your ideal partner loving you in exactly the right way for you. You can choose your partner or your sex contact here.
The great thing about fantasy is that we are not constrained by realities. Let this comfort you. Imagine how good they make you feel as deeply as you can. If you like hugs (like I do), use your imagination to actually feel being hugged on your skin. Conjure up everything you need to make it feel real.
4. Use sexual fantasies to spice up your life
The key to keeping sex exciting (especially when in a monogamous relationship) is the use of fantasy role-play scenarios. Put any guilt aside and approach your fantasy positively and let your imagination run free.
Imagine anything that excites you. This is far from a betrayal of your partner. It is a loving addition to your relationship that helps maintain your real-life emotional balance.
To sum it up:
Give yourself far-reaching consent to use your imagination in any way that serves you. Experiment! Do more of the imaginative role play that feels best. If something doesn’t bring relief, don’t be hard on yourself just keep testing and playing. Using imagination and fantasy role play keeps us creative, keeps our brains “in shape,” and will quite literally make you feel better.
Article: Fantasy Role Play Helps to Manage Emotions. By Emma Valasco