Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Imaginary family .....

As I mentioned in my previous entry, a lack of childhood relationships led me to create several imaginary friends.  These friends, as relatively fully-formed entities, disappeared by the time I was dumped on my uncle and his wife.  However, I didn't abandon them entirely and, in fact, they would -- in another form -- be a part of my life for many years to come.

I'm not sure exactly how or when it started, but by the time I was nine or ten, I was acting out variations on scenes from favorite TV shows in my bed before dropping off to sleep.  As during waking hours, I was always the central character in the scene and during childhood, my character was always a hero of some kind.

I fought countless battles and saved innumerable people's lives -- ever stoically brave, never showing fear.

Always a hero.

In my imaginary life, I was rewarded for my heroism on an almost nightly basis.

As I aged, the scenes changed and became more complex.  There were "story arcs" that would continue over several days, if not weeks.  Many times I would tell myself how ridiculous it was to still be pretending to be someone else at [insert age here], and would end a story by killing off my character and vowing to never engage in the activity again.

However, I would invariably relapse and find myself again living out a pretend, "fantasy" life in my bed.  I'm embarrassed to admit, and acknowledge, how old I was when I finally abandoned these fantasies.  Before I finally gave them up, the story lines had changed from me being a hero to me being loved.

[Note that I recognize the similarities (in my stories, at least) between heroism and love.  While I never entirely left the idea of being a hero behind, the stories came to focus more on me being loved just for being me.]

My supporting characters changed over time as well, although there were two primary groups of "friends" and family members that stayed with me over the years.  When I tired of one story line, I'd simply retire those characters and revive the other ones.  My own character changed very little.  She had her own name, history and physicality, and those were never the same as mine in real life. She was always admired for her numerous laudable qualities and, as I mentioned, loved by a multitude of people.  There was always a parental figure present (usually a widowed father -- why?).  In addition, there was always an aspect of protection, for though she was strong of will and character, there was someone who loved her enough to watch over her and keep her safe. 

Without going into too many details, I mentioned this once to an acquaintance who was a therapist by profession.  She said that this was a self-soothing/coping mechanism that I had turned to when I needed comfort, and that makes absolute sense to me.

Mostly friendless and feeling like an outsider in childhood, I was looking for validation of my worth.  Since it wasn't forthcoming in real life, I created an entire fantasy life to give my ego a boost.  Likewise, the lack of love from my uncle and his wife led me to seek that out in my imagination.  After several minutes of acting out scenarios in which I was the recipient of familial love and care, I could fall asleep feeling somewhat less insignificant.

Yes, I gave up my fantasy life and imaginary family and friends some time ago.

Well, I gave up the *acting out*, anyway.  I still keep a little imaginary life tucked away in the back of my mind.  Every now and then, when I'm feeling especially lonely or vulnerable, I'll close my eyes, steal away to my little fantasy world, and spend a few minutes imagining that someone loves me.

I'm pretty sure it's not an emotionally healthy thing for me to do but, as they say, it is what it is.

And since it's the closest thing to a "happy" life that I have, I can't see ever giving it up completely.