How to Handle Self-Affirming Fictions
Escapist delusions of grandeur are natural, universal, wonderful, and dangerous.
Posted Jan 28, 2019
Pat masturbates, fantasizing about being lusted after by super-hotties.
Alex watches action movies, imagining being as heroic as the heroes.
Jan worships and imagines being among God’s favorites who will get to spend eternity in heaven.
Sam listens to death metal and rap, imagining being as tough and confident as the vocalist.
Devon plays video games, imagining killing thousands to rescue victims of evil.
Charlie has a big wedding imagining being king and queen and living happily ever after.
Morgan goes to political rallies and imagines being at the vanguard of a revolutionary movement that will defeat the forces of evil once and for all.
Maybe there’s some truth to these people’s imaginings but even if there isn’t, the fantasies serve a purpose. Call them myfi—my fictions, in other words, self-affirming escapism, fantasies that keep any of us afloat amid life’s many challenges.
Human life is hard. No one stays on top for long. Everybody knows they’ll die. Everybody is white-knuckle-guessing what to do. We’re all paying dues and regretting past mistakes. All of us are wary of what comes next and many of us are harried by the struggle to keep afloat.
No wonder we thrive on myfi fantasies. They’re like the consolation prize for the exceptional stresses of being human.
Other organisms don’t seem to have the capacity to indulge in myfi fantasies. A worm, insect, bird or buffalo doesn’t have the wherewithal to be a legend in its own mind. We humans do because we have language by which our imaginations run wild.
Language makes human life peculiar. With it, we’re more adaptive and maladaptive, flexible and stubborn, visionary and delusional, reliable and fickle, safer and scarier than other organisms. With language, we have more to cope and, as a consolation prize, the ability to cope by engaging in fantasy escapism.
Of course, life is risky for all organisms. Predators everywhere. We humans have few animal predators left. Our big threats are other people, some of them delusional, hallucinating under the influence of their myfi self-affirming fictions. The con artist who lulls you into compliance, the partner who vowed with all his heart to adore you forever and then leaves to drink, join a cult or chase tail, the horrible boss, the clueless employee, the crazies on the street, the tyrants in power—you wouldn’t have to cope with all of these threats if it weren’t for language, nor would you have myfi as a coping strategy.
To use our myfi coping strategies in ways that float our boats without making the waters choppy for others, we should be myfi hobbyists, not myfi lobbyists. Escapism is a wonderful hobby. Most of us engage in it one way or another. Still, we cause trouble when we force our delusions of grandeur on others, lobbying them to agree with us.
It’s unlikely we’ll ever fully escape escapist lobbying. People are bound to tell you stories of their daring do and act out their holier-than-thou-attitudes, lobbying for you to sign on to their delusions of grandeur. And you’ll go along with it somewhat, humoring them to keep the peace. Still, there are limits, boundaries that, when crossed, drag us into the danger zone.
Often, you can keep a toehold in safety with a little teasing. There’s a subtle art to it worth cultivating, a way of humoring with a little signal that you’re humoring. If your friends and associates have a healthy hobbyist’s attitude, they’ll be able to handle the tease. You can laugh at them and they’ll join in.
Myfi helps to discharge the impulse to be a legend in our own minds. Go off to some corner and enjoy a Myfi hobby or two but keep an eye on yourself. Avid myfi lobbyists are a peril to society globally or even just around the kitchen table.
Grant me the imagination to indulge my safe myfi hobbies, the self-awareness to curb my dangerous myfi lobbying and the wisdom to seek to know the difference.
Grant me the tact to humor safe myfi lobbying, the bluntness to fight dangerous myfi lobbying, and the wisdom to seek to know the difference.