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“The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.”
—Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)
Reading time: 15 minutes
Fantasy vs Creative Imagination
There is no question that we can choose positive emotions to improve our life. Yet, there are many things we must consider before pursuing that aim, not least of which is making sure we don’t foolishly believe that’s all we need to grow, in spite of a natural want to improve our lot. They are two separate things, however. The latter tends to accompany the former and not after some considerable hardship. This is the nature of awakening: it sends out a signal to a world opposed to such a path and its response is usually to send a few obstacles to put us back to sleep. Usually, they are seductive and go straight for our weakest spot, our Achilles heel.
We need to cultivate deep self-knowledge to check we are embracing the positive thinking train for the right reasons; healing trapped emotions so that we’re sure we’re not seeking escape; a balm for pain; searching for short-cuts or using such methods to attain power and dominance. More importantly, we are not feeding our tendency to fantasize about the future.
Fantasy fuels our needy emotions. Fantasizing may be a welcome break from drudgery, but you may unwittingly invite chaos into the present. The very act of supplying energy to fantasy means that effort in the real world commensurate with a proper evaluation of our abilities is being continually siphoned away from pragmatic action. Therefore, your future will make you feel worse, not better, ironically stemming from your over-identification to think positively, the anticipation of that new state and subsequent diluted effort that could have ignited the state of creative flow.
Effort demands deliberate, conscious practice and an open spirit of expectation that allows creative imagination to complement critical thinking. Fantasy is like a self-created whirlpool which keeps us trapped in the warm waters of our own self-conceit thus making sure we never actually manifest even the humblest of those possibilities.
What makes it worse is people routinely confuse fantasy with creative imagination. When people mention the positive aspect of fantasy they are talking about the creative imagination which is fantasy set to work. Intention defines whether or not fantasy becomes creative or just colourful noise. Psychotherapist Carl Jung highlighted the importance of “playing with fantasy” without which “no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”
A bit of day-dreaming here and there is no bad thing. And the playing Jung talks about is really accessing imagination toward a general or specific quest. Children naturally access the creative imagination as means to derive meaning and emotional nourishment. Sensory input from play and day-dreaming are essential to future emotional stability. This is why so many kids have difficulties at school because our concepts of education are an assault on such creativity as it imposes dry, dead, tests and re-parents children along state-sanctioned directives. As we know, these are not based on a remotely coherent map of reality. Enforced learning along regimented lines divorced from emotional intelligence has the result of corralling kids into a body-mind matrix of unhealthy fantasy and an eternal longing for meaning by the time they are young adults. When the critical faculties and independence appear they are a pale reflection of what they should have been, sheared of the correct neural maps from the absence of joyful learning and proper emotional content. They are still locked into the unfulfilled and impoverished state that comes from an education that indoctrinates and programs children into a consensus trance.
When fantasy and wishful-thinking is sold as a “lifestyle design” then it becomes yet another way to keep us docile, disappointed and resentful. When combined with happiness as the primary goal and where spiritual aims are no different to material acquisition, then we are on a path to entropy, not creativity. When we are encouraged to make unrealistic and ill-thought out escapism into an overall aim, it just becomes self-indulgence.
Take sexual fantasies for example. Blogger, author and life coach Mark Manson writes:
“If there’s any kind of dream or fantasy that deserves to not be pursued, it’s the rape fantasy. According to research, at least 30% of women fantasize about being raped at some point (and some put that as a low estimate.) … sex researchers suggest that one reason for the prevalence of aggressive fantasies isn’t so much the rape themselves, but rather the desire to feel a loss of control.
Losing control in reality is dangerous. Despite how arousing it may be, one could get hurt or killed. It’s only possible to lose control and stay safe within the confines of one’s own mind.
The reason not every fantasy should be pursued is because fantasies never have negative repercussions. Reality does. You’re able to feel fear and terror without ever actually being in danger. You can feel excitement and adrenaline without ever actually risking anything. You can experience the joy and pride of a great success without actually suffering through the hard work.”
Manson also highlights the fact that what we often fantasize about is something we may not really want anyway. This is a common human experience: the reality is frequently a poor second to the fantasy-gloss we have layered on all those years and which obviously bears no resemblance to the truth. And that’s surely the point of harmless fantasizing that doesn’t become habitual: it allows us some fanciful respite. Nonetheless, when we identify with it and seek to turn essential unrealism into realism it turns out to be anti-climax or disappointment; a Technicolor perfection which doesn’t match our expectations. At the extreme end, when we seek perfection in a career or a person without paying attention to process – the natural, self-initiated aims and objectives that lead us naturally to our destination – we lose our love of life and that loss is turned inwards to stagnate, resulting in maladaptive issues.
The obvious relationship to pornography as the provider of powerful biochemical effects and the attendant sexual fantasies shouldn’t be lost on us. This frequently addictive focus drains our body and mind of creative impulse and action. It’s almost a form of self-rape whereby pleasure becomes the overriding goal, fragmenting one’s identity and at the cost of the higher utility that the creative imagination can provide. This is also a marker of narcissism, now actively encouraged in our culture.
Creative imagination offers solutions and at its best accesses the symbology of the soul which tends to communicate and supplement our quest through archetypal images which are personal and universal. Imagination so used, allows the mind to build upon a structure for an aim, an initial idea or inspiration that offers multiple avenues for growth. Its creative power lies in its real-world connection and application to both our inner self AND the outer world. Creative imagination offers agency and utility. It is not self-serving but potentially encompasses much more because such imagination is tied to a state of flow. Fantasy is really a mental and biochemical circularity; a form of mental (and literal) masturbation that wastes precious energy.
The creative imagination is one of our greatest assets. It fosters purpose and meaning. Fantasy puts us to sleep. And it is a selfish fantasy that underpins much of the positive thinking and Law of Attraction programming.
It follows therefore, that fantasy and day-dreaming without the creative anchor, represents the misuse of imagination (and as we shall see our creative/sexual energy). It is an excess permeability which allows in all kinds of external psycho-pathogens to take root and to stir up the unconscious shadows of one’s own. You might see how most forms of neurosis are the results of this unregulated imagination. When you can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, ideology and self-belief then it isn’t just those with overt psychosis suffering from delusion. Illusions create the latter and when that happens, your mind is not your own and it’s up for grabs by whoever wishes to claim it.
The need to lose control as described in the above passage could be a symptom of reality pressing in on us from all sides; too much stress and dissatisfaction with our lot and an inability to cope with unconscious childhood conditioning. It may also be a somewhat deformed desire to let go and surrender in the spiritual sense. Either way, when we let too much day-dreaming and fantasy complement positive thinking instead of paying close attention to objective reality we are essentially stimulating powerfully negative forces whose habitat is depression, anxiety and lies to the self.
“The universe does not know that you exist, does not care that you exist, and is not really interested in your desires. No matter how hard you think about something, it will not be yours if you do not do anything about it. Having optimistic expectations is very different from having positive fantasies. Convincing someone that pure fantasies can change their reality is not just harmless wishful thinking, it can be detrimental.”
— Jean Paul Zogby
Indeed, studies have found that: “The more positively people fantasized about the future, the more depressive symptoms people experienced up to seven months later..”  When that ideal state of perfection doesn’t happen, then we lose motivation and open ourselves to self-pity and cynicism. Then we might begin the blame game: “The universe doesn’t care.” and nothing matters anymore. You abdicate your responsibility and sometimes your moral obligations too by embracing short-term pleasure as a self-calming analgesic of your failure.
But that doesn’t mean some mind wandering is useless.  We can improve our concentration and focus in a productive way when we are more mindful thus more conscious of that creative process. It’s a question of whether it’s conscious and intentional, or unconscious and unintentional, thus marginally dissociative. Pure fantasies feeding self-serving desire and detached from any purpose or meaning is a different matter.
Researchers Heather Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen published a paper in the British Psychological Association which reiterated these points. Although positive fantasies do serve a low-grade purpose in reducing anxiety in the moment, for long-term, ambitious goals they are less than helpful. They state: “Instead of promoting achievement, positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like.” And further: “Fantasies that are less positive – that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems and setbacks – should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to obtain success.” 
And “positive” fantasies act as a means to buffer reality whilst extracting what we want with the least amount of effort. In other words, it’s a form of manipulation. And that can play a huge part in derailing our quest for spiritual growth. Such growth cannot occur in any meaningful sense when we are lost in fantasies of getting something for ourselves, which is precisely what a large proportion of the self-help, positive thinking and new age industries promote. If positive thinking is merely a means to grasp the golden chalice for oneself it becomes a veneer that just softens the edges of resentment and keeps the roots of that malaise firmly in place. It’s for this reason that groups, organisations and commercial companies pushing a purely positive environment with painted on smiling faces and ultra-inoffensive rules of engagement mean that challenge and the friction of differing points of view are handicapped by a consensus trance and the subsequent conformity.
No one likes to be around “negative people.” But personally speaking, I have no wish to be around purely positive people either if it means a dogmatic adherence to positivity at any cost. Reality checks aren’t likely to be welcomed by such people since any critique or pragmatism will be considered “negative.” Any broaching of the pink bubble of positivity and unrelenting optimism is since as heresy, hence the endless bumper-stickers, morning affirmations, mantras and ritualistic worship that gets closer to a religion than a psychological tool. Empathy is then often sacrificed for that high. If you are feeling low or depressed; if life delivers some shocks (when you were thinking so positively that you weren’t sufficiently vigilant) then it’s unlikely you’ll get a sympathetic ear from a positive thinking evangelist because they’d rather not be tainted others’ negative emotions. Besides, you just weren’t thinking positively enough, thus not creating the reality you are destined to inhabit…
Perhaps this is why I recall from my sojourn into the new age and self-help circuits when a student, brief glimpses of aggression and underlying defensiveness to be seen from those who have embraced positive thinking as an exclusive mode of living. A winning smile could turn to a snarl if I meekly alluded to how rape or child abuse victims fit into this worldview of positive have-and have-nots. Then I might as well have been a Satanist pissing on their cross of joy and bliss. “You see, that kind of negative thinking just attracts the same. Don’t give it energy!”
It becomes exhausting when grafted onto beliefs took on to buffer inner disquiet and the inconvenient realities of our material world. Our beliefs can be based on the wisdom of experience and self-knowledge which help to reinforce our faith and constructive emotions. There are also those beliefs that help to paper over the cracks in our ego-masks and add to the debris in the psychic swamps desperately seeking drainage. Until that occurs, the potential of psychic unity cannot be achieved. It becomes even more dangerous when such a belief combines with spirituality and the natural partner of liberal-left ideology. The net result is a belief that traps us in psychic stagnation that actually takes us further away from true spiritual growth and enhances the dragon of the ego as master, fuelled by fear.
This is where self-love and positive thinking meets The Law of Attraction which deftly bends self-responsibility out of shape to the point where negative thinking usurps any and all possibilities for unity. Denial of that which screams to be addressed eventually turns into a monster which takes over the whole mind-body system. It doesn’t matter what the belief is, it will serve as scaffolding for that monster which will continue to use it as a means reach higher into mind in order to extend egotistical supremacy.
Combine positive thinking, You Create Your Own Reality (YCYOR) and The Law of Attraction and you have a combustible fire of spiritual disinformation that burns up any possibility of progress instead of igniting genuine transformation. What’s more, it’s the perfect tinderbox of the kind of spiritual fascism that the Nazis or the Bavarian Illuminati would have been proud.
Yes, positive thinking is constructive but not as an all-encompassing belief. If the latter, it atrophies critical thinking, vigilance, pragmatism and discernment making you vulnerable to negative occurrences in life. Yes, you can “create your own reality” but not in the simplistic ways that are promoted by those wishing to make a profit from your gullibility. There are numerous caveats in that now familiar new age marketing term.
Creating one’s own reality is only applicable if are able to see ourselves and the external world with new eyes i.e. by seeing it as objectively as possible. By choosing wishful thinking as the means to achieve something we mistake a random change as confirmation of our desires which may have nothing at all to do with resonance of inner work but everything to do with our pretensions to altering reality as an entitled badge of ignorance.
You Create Your Own Reality (YCYOR)
The Law of Attraction posits that because our lives are a product of our thoughts then we can turn that critter around and attract everything good to us by virtue of positive thinking and being kind, loving and grateful. Plus, willing our new life into existence with happy clenched teeth. Hence the mantra: You Create Your Own Reality.
Heavily influenced by the new physics discoveries, there is something to this idea, but as ever, it has ended up a caricature thanks to the well-intentioned and positively sociopathic. We do, in very real ways, create our own reality through the quality of our thoughts which determine the quality of our actions. We do not create our reality in a bubble, nor can we imagine that the world can be bent to our will just because we want something. We must rely on the exchanges and compromises we make in our daily lives; to seek the balance between the currents of our life and knowing when to mount a defence; how we must be patient and passive on the one hand and innovative and active on the other.
Timing, context and a self-regulating awareness mean everything.
The new age Law of Attraction isn’t based on either science or esoteric wisdom as proponents are quick to mention. Rather, it’s based on a highly distorted and superficial rendering of both, using fantasy and selfish desire as the source, effectively offering a middle finger to the natural processes of the Universe. It says: “I not only know best, but I’m going to force you to see it my way.”
We don’t live in a utopian or solipsistic Universe. If you “attract” something to you – often without merit or effort and laced with anticipation – then you are obviously setting up a cause and effect; an ebb and flow; an action and re-action based on the fact that you are not an isolated ego stuck on an island of one’s own desires but profoundly connected to the whole ocean of existence – from man, woman, tree, rock and flower. Energy follows thought all right and will mirror back to you a precise imprint of what you desire – imperfections and all. Without this sense of humility, one cannot access a true response-ability which is borne of conscience. Anything else is merely a form of occult invocation and spell-binding. Pure ego-desire will bind external events and people to you – maybe even that hot babe or new car – but that will come at a price. And the Universe is nothing if not an exacting and neutral book-keeper when comes to balance.
The merest whiff of common sense should tell us that the LOA and YCYOR is patently false. This is what I wrote about the law of attraction in another post:
Not only is this a gross distortion on the nature of reality but it becomes a horrible caricature of truth when you recall the young boys passed around Westminster paedophiles like candy, to be raped to death and discarded in rubbish dumps; when you remember the Catholic priests who defiled and stomped on innocence to satisfy their desires, whilst relying on successive Popes to cover up their deeds; not forgetting the children sold into slavery every minute of everyday, who are abused, murdered in snuff films and satanic forms of rituals at the behest of some of the highest movers and shakers in the land.
Our beloved media makes it easy for us to move on to the next infotainment news item where reality and fantasy naturally blur. Clearly, the new age market place wishes us to believe that these children did not think positively enough about their reality and thus brought in upon themselves. Not being privy to The Secret, the Universe it seems, cast them into an unyielding determinism where Rhonda Bryne’s re-packaged “sacred wisdom” could have saved them from such Predators. What this disinformation actually counsels is the inflation of an insatiable ego … while spinning the very core concepts of spirituality into self-help capitalism as the arbiter of happiness.
And of course, all victims of crime, wars and genocide of time immemorial were somehow excluded from the power of their own positive thoughts and the collorary of YCYOR because they weren’t making the right choices, or were attracting those bad events to them because they hadn’t pumped enough positivity into their veins … Of course! After all this time, the greatest minds of the past thousand years hadn’t realised such a simple truth lay within their grasp. Our negative blocking millions of dollars flowing into our prepared coffers in the same way that world peace is being thwarted by so many people thinking negatively.
Numerous quotations from the Bible have been used as a means to spin more layers of bullshit. One of the most common ones I see on the coaching circuit is this one:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”
Oh boy! That means if I just think positively enough morning, noon and night ask God to give me everything I want … I’ll be set dude!
Hint: he wasn’t talking about a new X-box or the latest lottery win.
The man who was known as “Jesus” was a practical guy. He knew human frailties inside out. He wasn’t alluding to anything but to suggest a simple love of truth and the Way, that the seeker was not alone because Christ consciousness lived within. It just had to be voluntarily awakened. Ask sincerely, and there will be assistance and recognition; be prepared to expend the effort to seek the truth and you will find it; knock on the door of life with integrity and a sense of moral rectitude and you honour God. We might then have the chance to open a door to higher awareness and Divine assistance.
This was about the assistance that is always on hand for those to traverse their challenges and to grow. No one can do it for us, but a spiritual reality we may not fully understand is available and accessible to aid us in our quest through faith, effort, will and sincere persistence.
But no. It’s about getting what you want apparently.
Don’t get me wrong. The power of the mind is immense. Creative visualisation and a balanced positive outlook can alter our physiology – even to the extent of re-programming the body’s autonomic systems and reversing illness. There are thousands of case studies illustrating this reality. But it is a dangerous fallacy that such healing can be applied to the vast matrices of conflicting currents of the external world in order to a) change it without sufficient knowledge and b) believe we can extract something from it in order appease the ego without associated repercussions.
We can rationalise any one desire to be altruistic or ultimately beneficial to one’s community or world through LOA and YCYOR. They can be used to justify anything at all in favour of a fast track to our personal destiny as we see it. If I can just have this then I’ll be able to do this formula tends to welcome short-cuts and subjectivity over effort and objectivity. The latter seeks to observe life’s manifestations as close to truth as possible, as opposed to a cold, intellectual evaluation. It means using our head and our heart and knowing when we have stepped over the mark into a no-man’s land of opportunism and fantasy-ridden self-aggrandizement.
“Always act as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.”
— Buddhist saying
Other examples: “If I manifest a new car then I’ll be able to drive to the soup kitchen on Sundays.” Or: “I’d love to buy that necklace for my wife. Time to manifest it to me by the end of the week.” Put in a request to the Universe and it’s as easy as that it seems.
But where’s the merit?
Where is the sense of earned satisfaction and persistence?
Working hard to earn the money, to be a better person and naturally create the connections would offer such an opportunity? It also means we would have to confront failure. But this is understandably uncomfortable, horrible even. It’s certainly not very sexy or exciting.
The same can be said for most divination systems on offer today as pale reflections of their ancient source. They offer comfort and navigation. But even genuine divination (if there is such a thing) requires a significant amount of effort to learn the system and to be mindful and discerning enough to access the signposts to truth. We can visit a tarot reader desperate to hear something “positive” such as “…you will meet a handsome man this year who will revolutionise your life…” not realising that if this man exists, he may well be handsome but also a sociopath. Yup, he revolutionised your life all right – by taking you to the cleaners. Yet, in the tradition of the cosmic trickster, this may have been precisely what you needed to transform your self and assist others in avoiding similar catastrophes. Was the tarot reading at fault or was it how we used the information? Did you attract this event to yourself from your unconscious need to grow beyond your immediate selfish desires? Or was it just a random collection of events set in motion by our mere presence? As it is pitched to the public, the Law of Attraction – if it exists at all – isn’t so simple.
We can throw the coins of the Yi Ching in order to humbly receive answers for careful contemplation or we can use this information to reinforce our preconceived ideas. Inspiration and wisdom can’t be rushed nor can it be duped. Like any artefact designed to interface between our unconscious and the seventh sense of conscience, it can only deliver what we are open to see and hear. Even that divinatory authenticity is minuscule. Like psychic fairs and all manner of phenomena, it is commoditized to reflect our culture and thus becomes a vast slot-machine of endless spiritual gambling, hoping against hope that these will manifest variations of perfection as if we had accessed a Universal tooth fairy who is obliged to dispense abundance to all. As long as you have the right spell or password you can claim your gold it seems.
Individuality is an important celebration of our potential freedom of mind, independence and uniqueness. Yet in this western culture of ours, it has been taken to yet another extreme, where the individual is equated not with freedom but with commodity, consumerism and “manifesting” everything that emboldens and feeds our desires. When we become too separated from the possibility that we are interrelated and interconnected in ways we are only just beginning to fathom, we become fixated on wresting back that emptiness, that loss of meaning and the eternal gnawing grief deep within our hearts a reminder that we are nothing without the creative synergy of others. Individuality then, and our pseudo-spiritual “rights” become tied to this loss and insincerity. In that sense, we perversely invite a certain amount of nasty experiences to wake ourselves up from that empty slumber. How else can we ignite that fire again?
Perhaps the Creative Universe is a multidimensional pattern of Being. We are individual expressions of that Being; fractal replications of a Process that we cannot hope to second guess. We are mini-attributes of a vast Mind we cannot own and we, therefore, do not “own” that individuality or that process, unless of course we seek to operate only from what we can get out of it. And it is this that “creates its own reality” in accordance with its wishes, not according to the definition of the soul. The latter, it seems is as demanding as the Universe if we seek true freedom.
LOA and YCYOR represent more fake formulas that are thrown into the Creative Universe as hypotheses and theories which are immediately reflected back at us as chaos and entropy. Well, that’s one way to learn, right? That opens up further choices. When you are completely unaware you are heading deeper into a self-excavated pit the only way up is to finally turn your head from whence you came, to slowly climb our way out to level ground. That’s the usefulness of subversion, deception and chaos. It tests us, gives us the chance to begin to SEE.
We create our own reality by creating the conditions within. Such an intention aligns to the right external conditions – people and places – that match a cultivated resonance as a natural process. No spellbinding force is necessary. The integrity we grow within ourselves affords respect and humility in the face of the unknown and the deep mystery of the Universe that is so beyond our petty needs and conceptions. Such a stance renders self-serving beliefs in personalised manifestations null and void.
When we begin to align with creative flow in our own lives without recourse to cynical gimmicks which hijack spiritual truths, and are prepared to courageously face ourselves and this dark and beautiful world, then we can say that our personal will is also aligned with the Creative Will of the Universe in its most benevolent and loving expression.
Self-regulation, self-control and integrity slowly emerge and we’ll find we have no need of those gimmicks which once so easily captured our attention as moths to a flickering flame.
 ‘Psychology study cautions: Think twice before overdoing the positive thinking’ PSYblog, 05 Feb 2016 | https://www.spring.org.uk/2016/02/avoid-positive-thinking.php
 ‘How to daydream your way to better learning and concentration’ by Caroline Williams, New Scientist, 17 May 2017 | https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23431260-200-how-to-daydream-your-way-to-better-learning-and-concentration/
 Kappes, H., and Oettingen, G. (2011). Positive fantasies about idealized futures sap energy. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47 (4), 719-729 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.02.003