If it feels good to you, then it is okay to indulge in it.
No. Therapists – it is not okay and this shouldn’t be part of your advice to people who are already prone to or showing signs of addiction to escapism and fantasy relationships – which forms the basis of limerance and maladaptive dreaming. I’ve seen this SO MANY times with clients who are clearly suffering from the effects of being addicted to fantasy relationships, celebs and people who aren’t in love with them. It’s very damaging and dare I say, irresponsible advice.
A brief backstory here – I’ve had several clients over the years who came to me with what seemed like something that could be “easily” treated at first – inability to focus at work, struggling to connect with someone at first, procrastination. When I’ve dug further and used my BlindSpotting method to draw out the stories around these themes – there was also something else at the root.
A couple of them I’ve worked with were really dealing with unhealed wounds from their childhood, which had morphed and manifested into failed real-life romances, difficulty forming relationships/friendships with others, difficulty setting up boundaries in relationships, not being armed with the tools to vet potential friends/dates properly and the list goes on.
Limerance, maladaptive dreaming, celebrity worship and its roots in fantasy – a created world that exists in our minds and isn’t reality
What was interesting to me was that a large percentage of this group were engaging alot in fantasy relationships – either with real life people or with celebs. Many had what is called limerance – where the person is obsessively infatuated with another person (also known as a limerance object) and sometimes they also engaged in maladaptive dreaming – a rather complex issue which stems from trauma in early life – where the individual dissociates from reality and disappears into a world filled with complex plotlines, characters and so on.
Both maladaptive dreaming and limerance can be incredibly detrimental to a person’s day-to-day living and can interfere with one’s life in a huge way. Instead of being in the here and now, interacting with others in their real-world and tending to their needs, they disappear into their fantasies where life is a lot better, shinier, brighter, like it is in technicolour.
Curious how limerent you are and on which part of the healing journey you are on?
Many limerants and maladaptive dreamers I’ve met had created worlds of fantasies for their romantic lives – where the object of their affection is romantically interested in them and how the both of them are interacting as if they know each other and are romantically involved. Some of them whose limerant objects are celebs would spend hours reading up on the celeb, watching their interviews/videos, stalking their social media channels and reading fanfictions about them.
Many of them who did this insisted that it was okay because their therapists told them that it was and if it was making them happy and not affecting their lives, it was OK to continue doing so.
It isn’t. And there is a neuroscientific explanation for this.
The dopamine loop and how it reinforces maladaptive behaviour through feel-good feelings
The reason why people with limerance, maladaptive dreaming habits, celebrity worship syndrome etc are always excited when they engage with content of their favourite celebs is that by doing so, they are reinforcing the dopamine neural circuits in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that our brain produces that allows us to feel good.
And unfortunately dopamine is the reason why so many people engage in or are addicted to habits that are downright harmful (social media addictions for one) and keeping them from living a life they truly want.
So how does this work with limerants, maladaptive dreamers and celebrity worshippers? When they engage in content of their celebs or limerant objects or their fantasies, dopamine is released by the brain and floods our bodies, this makes us feel good. And guess what do we do when something makes us feel good? Yes, we do more of it. It’s only human and only natural.
But this is a slippery slope. Because when you need something external to feel good, you will one day reach a threshold where your current level of activity (engaging in celeb’s content in this case) does not give you that level of dopamine hit again. So you have to increase the quantity of consumption and the frequency in order to get that dopamine hit again.
And on and on it goes. It’s a never-ending cycle that reinforces itself.
This also holds true for any other type of habit – consuming too much of sugar, the high from social media likes/comments etc. And some of these habits over time can lead to unhealthy addictions and obsessive behaviour.
This is why the “if it feels good, just keep doing it advice” sucks
It’s just encouraging the person to find more reasons and excuses for themselves to justify their addictions and keep indulging in their addictions/unhealthy fantasy obsessions with no desire to break it or kick it, worsening the addiction for themselves.
Granted, some of these individuals could actually not be telling their therapist the whole truth. But I spoke to a client who admitted to her therapist that she would spend the better part of her day, more than 10 hours on weekends and 6 hours on weekdays just stalking twitter to see what the celeb she’s in “love” with posted, watch YouTube interviews to dissect what he’s saying, read forums about his gossip to see if he’s dating anyone etc.
She is a self-professed hermit who doesn’t really have much friends or a social life and isn’t incredibly close to her family either (fantasy relationships and romantic addictions can actually lead an individual to abandoning real-life relationships and their needs). She first came to me because she felt lost in life – she’s in her mid-30s but hasn’t dated in a decade, has never held down a steady job and has no idea what to do. She wakes up and just drifts about her day, has very little hobbies outside of this celeb as well.
Yet – the therapist still told her to go ahead and indulge in her fantasies that are clearly eroding her reality – the life that she gets to lead. Don’t get me wrong. Therapy is incredibly helpful for many people, but because it can be such an expensive journey paying for consultations and looking for a good therapist can take awhile, it’s incredibly important to work with a therapist that can point out the BS, your unhelpful habits etc in an honest and gentle way that can help you through your healing. And not just agree with whatever you are doing and allow you to further harm yourself.
If therapy hasn’t been working, there are alternatives
This is not meant to be a shameless plug for my own work, but my goal moving forward is to be more “out-there” about what I do and tell people how I can help them. So this is what I’m doing. I help alot of people dig through and heal their childhood wounds as well as break free from societal expectations in order to lead a life they truly want – one of peace, happiness, loving relationships and freedom.
I use a combination of techniques depending on your needs. A storytelling method I call BlindSpotting, with a couple of neuroscientific and psychotherapy techniques thrown in. It’s a unique blend and if you feel like you are ready to take that one small step to transform your life – get in touch! There’s also more about my work and me here.
Til the next post! And would love to hear your thoughts, if any 🙂
Struggling with romance, limerence or anything relationship-related? Help is here!
And no, I’m not gonna be telling you that everything is okay when it is not 😉
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