Sexual fantasies can create a wide mix of reactions for people. They may often feel exciting and exhilarating. But often sexual fantasies may feel troubling for the person who is experiencing them. They may seem so at odds with the person’s view of themselves that the individual may feel intense shame and a strong desire to do anything to get rid of them. Often though, the sexual fantasies are harmless and trying to understand them, rather than push them away, will be the most helpful strategy to disarm them. Many times, the fantasy actually loses all its power if acted upon; the strength of the fantasy is only in the fantasy.

I see sexual fantasies as types of waking dreams. And just as many people keep dream journals or like to discuss their dreams with friends or their therapist, so too can sexual fantasies be analyzed in much the same. Just like dreams, sexual fantasies can be seen as wish-fulfillment. For example, someone who feels overburdened with responsibility may experience frequent fantasies involving submission scenarios, where the full brunt of responsibility is shifted to another person. Or, someone who feels  invisible in his or her daily life may experience fantasies involving power, dominance, and control.

Fantasies involving strangers or numerous partners can point towards a strong desire for anonymity. Fantasies involving aggressive acts or rough sex may indicate an underlying feeling of rage towards the object of the fantasy or just simply a desire for reckless abandon in the face of a daily life filled with keeping up a facade of collected calm and control. Fantasies involving exotic locations or unusual positions may point to a need to break free of a rut or dull routine. Fantasies involving memories of a previous encounter may seek to capture the feeling of the encounter, in much the same way we may reminiscence about good times from the past to help ourselves feel better.

The common thread here is that sexual fantasies often provide an antidote for the individual’s difficulties in daily life. They present an escape, the granting of a wish to make amends for the present situation. For an actual case example of this kind of dynamic in action, take a look at this recent article about the individual who was aroused by nicotine addiction. Sure, sexual fantasies may often take on much less of a psychological role. We may fantasize about our upcoming encounter with our partner or about a body part or item of clothing that really turns us on. In this case, it is really more about straightforward desire. But often sexual fantasies can be viewed much like dreams– they hold the key to our desires, hopes, and dreams.

When experiencing a sexual fantasy, rather than attempting to push it away or repress it, I suggest you take on an air of curiosity, much like a detective. Take a look at your fantasy and try to figure it out. What clues does it provide you about what you are wishing for in life?