NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Sexual Wellness: Understanding the Unconscious Meaning of Your Fantasies

In prior articles, I wrote about sexual fantasies as they relate to relationships.  See my articles: 

Understanding the Unconscious Meaning of Your Sexual Fantasies

In this article, I'm focusing on defining sexual fantasies based on the work of Dr. Michael Bader.

What Are Sexual Fantasies?
According to Michael Bader, Ph.D., author of the book, Arousal - The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, most people think of sexual fantasies as erotic daydreams where there are images, scenes and possibly a plot that gets them sexually excited.  

This often leads some people, who don't have images or scenarios in their head, to say that they don't have sexual fantasies.

But Dr. Bader says that this is a narrow definition of sexual fantasies.

He says sexual fantasies are whatever gets you turned on, which could include things like the type of:
  • Personalities you're drawn to
  • Personal attributes in others that get you turned on
  • Bodies that get you sexually aroused
  • Porn you're most aroused by or erotic books you read (if you watch porn or read erotica)
And so on.

As you can see if you compare the definitions above, Dr. Bader's definition is more inclusive.  

He says when sexual fantasies are defined in this more expansive way, most people would say they do have sexual fantasies (see my articles: What is Your Erotic Blueprint - Part 1 and Part 2).

Different people also have different types of sexual fantasies based on many factors, including cultural or ethnic background, religion, childhood upbringing, and other factors that are unique to each individual.  

Even if two people have similar sexual fantasies, each person is bound to have a particular twist to their fantasy.

What Are Some of the Problems People Have With Their Sexual Fantasies?
According to Dr. Bader, in order for people to allow themselves to get sexually excited by their fantasies, they need to feel safe enough to do it.  If they don't feel safe, their sexual excitement can be inhibited.

For instance, if a man worried that his girlfriend would feel demeaned by his sexual fantasy (even if his fantasy remained imaginary and he didn't want to engage in it in real life) she might be put off or judgmental, and he would feel too guilty to allow himself to have the fantasy. 

Even if his girlfriend didn't object to his fantasy, but he felt like a "bad person" for having the fantasy, this could create an inhibition.

In addition, many people don't understand their fantasies because they're in conflict with their everyday values.  

For instance, a woman who has feminist values might have fantasies of being sexually dominated by a man.  This could occur whether she's heterosexual, bisexual, a lesbian, transgender, nonbinary or considers herself to be sexually fluid.  She might feel guilty and ashamed of this fantasy and try to suppress it because she doesn't understand it.

The Unconscious Logic of Sexual Fantasies
Dr. Bader posits that sexual fantasies are the key to unlocking sexual inhibitions--whether the inhibitions involve guilt, shame or some inhibitory factor.

He says that if fantasies are the key that unlock the inhibition, knowing the inhibition helps to infer the underlying issues that are inhibiting sexual pleasure.

He gives an example of someone who is sexually attracted to unavailable authority figures, like teachers, bosses at work, therapists or other people in authority.  

In this case, based on the person's personal history, one possible underlying meaning is that this person might feel inadequate and fantasies about authority figures might be an unconscious solution to this problem.

Another example would be an executive, who is in charge at a large corporation and has the  responsibility for making major decisions.  He might have fantasies of being sexually dominated where he is in a submissive role, which would be a significant change from his daily experiences at work. 

This submissive role would compensate for feeling overwhelmed by always being in charge at work (see my articles: What is Sexual Power Play in Relationships? and What You Can Learn From the Kink Community About Consent).

A heterosexual woman, who was neglected as a child and felt invisible and unlovable in her family, might have sexual fantasies of being part of a threesome where two men are focused exclusively on her sexual pleasure.  

Within this fantasy, she is the center of attention so she feels attractive and desirable.  This is the opposite of how she felt when she was growing up and how she probably feels as an adult if she has not worked on this problem in therapy.

How to Unlock the Unconscious Meaning of Your Sexual Fantasies
Some sexual fantasies are easier than others in terms of unlocking their meaning so the meaning might be obvious to these people.

For other people, who might feel too guilty or ashamed to reflect on their fantasies (or where the fantasies are complex), understanding the unconscious meaning could be more elusive.  

A psychotherapist, who knows how to help clients to unlock the unconscious meaning, can help a client to understand why they have particular fantasies so they no longer feel guilty or ashamed of them.  

What Are the Benefits of Understanding Your Sexual Fantasies?
If you feel free to indulge in fantasies and you're not bothered by them, you might not care whether you understand them or not. You can just enjoy them.

Some people who feel free to enjoy their fantasies might even say that deconstructing their fantasies might get in the way of enjoying them, which is understandable.

But you're feeling guilty and ashamed of your fantasies, understanding their meaning could be help you to:
  • Free up sexual energy so your fantasies are more pleasurable to you and your partner.
  • Use your fantasies to enhance your sexual pleasure in real life--assuming they're not harmful to you or anyone else.
  • Compensate for early childhood wounds where you felt unlovable or powerless.
  • Help you to feel more desirable and confident in yourself.
Sexual fantasies can have unconscious meaning that help to free up sexual energy, compensate for earlier unmet needs and provide a balance for the rest of your life (as mentioned above with the executive who is normally in charge at work and wants to be submissive sexually).

Feeling guilty or ashamed of a sexual fantasy inhibits your sexual pleasure.

Having a sexual fantasy is very different from enacting the fantasy in real life, which you might never want to do.  

At the same time, as long as it's not harmful to you or others, using your sexual fantasies for solo pleasure or partnered sex can enhance your sex life.

Getting Help in Therapy
If guilt and shame are inhibiting your ability to enjoy sex, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has experience in helping clients to work through these issues.

Rather than struggling on your own, as an individual or a couple, seek help so you can overcome your inhibitions and have a more enjoyable sex life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.