To keep dreaming, or to stop living in your fantasy world – that’s the question. But what does it mean to live in a fantasy world, and what sorts of effects could it have on our lives? So, I was wondering a bit and came to a few conclusions that sound nice – at least for now.
Ironically, the most deluded bunch of people I have come across in the internet was in a community that prided itself by carrying the name “Red Pill”. In case you need the context for the name – in the movie Matrix, the protagonist Neo was given a choice – take the “Blue Pill” – and keep dreaming, or take the “Red Pill” and see where the world is really at.
Now, I don’t mean to make this a post of bashing the “Red Pill Community” – but what they do and how they do provides a nice illustration for what I was thinking – the coincidence of their ironic (but not intended so, as far as I know) name plays like the perfect cherry-on-top. (Ha! Get it?)
A very prevalent feature of the Red-Pillers seemed to have been certain expectations for women (or men) – basically they are following a bunch of books or authors who have theorized how the perfect man ought to behave and go about their lives, how they should treat others and how they should treat themselves. Now, if it was limited to only that, and these rosy theories would only be used to apply on self – ever so often you can come across “red-pillers” who seem to be more interested in imposing these values to others (e.g. when discussing about why they didn’t want to keep a certain girl or what makes another man a beta).
You may want to think of these as some kind of expectations – and you might even see that having good expectations for people can’t hurt – that’s what I think, too – yet, there appears to be a blurry line about where expectations meet fantasy. Because, really – what is it to you how another person goes or hoes about their life?
A common theme in dreaming, fantasizing appears NOT to be about me doing greater things, me working hard, me figuring out a problem – doing these is an active activity – building, working, and solving – it’s not a dreamer thing. But when I have fantasized – it has almost always been about things or people out of my control. A dreamer takes a very passive position – I’d dream of things that would happen to me – usually they would be good things, pleasant, something that would prove me right and just and deserving.
Even though it might seem a very grandiose thing to do – but how is it different than taking a relaxing bath, indulging yourself in the godly massage of the water, providing relief and bliss to your bones and muscle? Fantasizing is a little bit like taking a bath, going to a spa, getting a massage, eating a dessert.
And then there’s – but what if you start indulging in it too much, and what if you stop seeing it as a bath-stop altogether? There is a certain danger in pleasant fantasies – I think, because of a very precise feature that our brain has. And that feature is anchoring.
In my long and hard adventures of finding the perfect romantic partner – of course, subtly I dreamt and expected all sorts of qualities, too. Whether my expectations were unrealistic or not is beside the point! But what having those subtle expectations caused was partial blindness towards the people I was really facing. I was busy imposing these subtle qualities, wishfully, on the friends or partners I was dealing with – and at some point, that subtle bubble would burst – I’d crash, I’d burn.
At one point I may have figured it out it is better to get out of my head and be present and pay attention to what these people are really doing. But the piece of thought that brought me there was not “keep it real” – what slingshot me there was actually making the fantasies so extremely crazy that I could not in any way impose them on my real life, nor have my brain use it as an anchor to assess the quality of my life in this world.
Now, maybe when I was a teenager, writing (cheesy) fantasy was a way to cope with this confusion – but even when I started doing that early, that didn’t stop me from looking for heroes in real life – I could fantasize cheesy fantasy AND I’d still dream someone would bail me out from my miserable life (that’s how I assessed it, back then).
What realization or meditation really made the change for me was another image. The Shelf Space of My Mind. It is helpful to be able to notice WHAT it exactly is that I am thinking about – am I dreaming about the things I would do with a million dollars? Am I thinking about the sensational story my man’s friends’ cousin’s mother is struggling with? Or am I actually putting my brain to work and building something…
My shelves have carried all sorts of fantasies on them. Conversations with grandiose results, the misfortune of people who annoyed me or betrayed me, or events of them seeking for my forgiveness, sexual fantasies (never what I would do to someone else, but what they’d do to me), or resolutions with family (never what I’d do for my family, but what they’d do for me), friends (and the onus was always, always, always on the other side – to be the bigger person, they bring something of my convenience on the table etc!). I dreamt of being recognized like a rockstar, being known and popular and treated well and with respect (but it had nothing to do with what I was producing – the viral effect is up to the crowd, after all).
Entertaining the unlikely thought, hoh hoh hoo, that I am far not the only one who has abused the extent of her imaginative powers in this way – it comes without surprise – considering these kinds of dreams we cannot help but anchor to – there’s so much bitterness, expectations and entitlement – it all starts from the Bath. The more we bathe, the more we dream – the harder it is to forget there was a line – and one day, stepping out from the bath – the realization that you are not, in fact, the millionaire rockstar you wish you were – will simply result with contempt towards everything that is out of your control – including all the other people, the masses, the society, existence.
At one time my shelves were stacked with unpleasant shit and worry – I’d pick them up often and dragged it along throughout the day. I’d like to think that most of that shit is now off the shelves now, tucked away deep in the archives where I need not actively think about them again – but perhaps they are a part of my wider framework – therefore I’m not oblivious to the darkness of disappointment, nihilism or hedonism!
My dreams of a fantastic world eventually became something else than a dream – it stopped being parallel to my own life where someone else would appear and save me from it – sometimes human, other times divine (because sometimes you can feel so down that it feels like now only a God can help you), or where my plight and roughing through it would be the element of triumph in the end – but I started building it in a different way. I’ve started adding in constraints, motivations, challenges, faith, risk-taking, assholes, misunderstandings, inconvenient rules, little and big wins and losses, and I’ve removed everything grandiose and wishful… In a way, much of writing that story is a process of finding out and removing fantasies I wish that had happened to me – and it becomes more a story of people who have fantasies of things they wish that would happen to them – and of people who have surpassed that passivity and naivete.
So, these days I don’t fantasize about friendships, relationships or having a shit tonne of money anymore (not so much, anyway, can’t say that I don’t occasionally forget myself). I do a lot less with the hope that what I do will make “good things happen to me.” Let’s say, there’s a lot less “bathing” than there used to be – and somehow it has made my sight all the more clearer. My thinking feels clearer to me.
So, the big idea, compared to how I was before, now I see people for who they are trying to be instead of who I wish they would be. And damn, I say – life is a lot more interesting this way.