The Role of Fantasy in Complex Trauma and Dissociation

Fantasies can provide wonderful momentary escapes from reality that resource and inspire us, improving our lives. They can provide alternative explorations of secure attachment and healing. However, they may also become prisons serving to avoid reality, driving maladaptive expectations and behaviors. We will discuss the roles of conscious and unconscious fantasies in clients with complex trauma and dissociation, including the newer concept of maladaptive daydreaming. Types of fantasies include omnipotent and perfectionistic wishes that manifest in inner critical beliefs and avoidance of help and support; fantasies of care and rescue that drive dependency; fantasies of the perfect relationship; narcissistic fantasies of power, control, and exceptionalism; erotic fantasies; and fantasies involving rage, sadomasochistic elements, and revenge. The role of fantasy in the development of dissociative parts will also be discussed. Participants will learn how to recognize both conscious and  unconscious fantasies and discuss these with their clients in a nonjudgmental and curious way. We will then explore ways to resolve the central conflicts and avoidance of reality in these fantasies, including promotion of grieving and acceptance.

Participants will be able to:

  1. Discuss the adaptive role of fantasy in trauma recovery.
  2. Identify maladaptive fantasies that prevent progress in therapy.
  3. Identify ways to uncover fantasies that are not conscious to the client.
  4. Delineate core issues involved in maladaptive fantasies in trauma survivors.
  5. Analyze different types of fantasies and therapeutic approaches to their resolution.

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Includes 60 day recording access.
Professional Development CEs not applicable.

Other Topics in this Series with Kathy Steele:

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Page Last Updated: 10 August 2022