Our Sexual Fantasies Have The Potential To Heal Us: Here's What You Need To Know

Photo: Simone Becchetti

Whether it was an early crush, a one-night stand with a stranger, or an illicit affair, the fuel that feeds our most animal passions is generated by the sexiest organ in our bodies—our brains. Most sexual fantasies are variations on the basic themes of submission, domination, and rule-breaking. Many fantasies can even be disconcerting, making you wonder why on earth you'd find something so bizarre arousing. So, more often than not, we try to ignore the fantasies that make us uncomfortable. And it is to our detriment.

You see, tapping into this erotic fuel will take your sex life to whole new levels of creativity and excitement. When I first began allowing the obscene imagery and storylines that emerged from my previously pent-up fantasies to flow, it scared me at least as much as it excited me. I remember how I would be swept away by these fantastical sexual stories, with no idea where they could have come from.

And I remember ruminating for days about whether these were some bizarre recovered memories coming back to me. But after learning more about the natural process of fantasy evolution within us, I have not only been able to relax into what comes, but I've come to revel in amazement about the power of my own erotic energy.

The most game-changing discovery I made was that our fantasies can facilitate a powerful transformation through healing.

The most illuminating book I've ever read about the origins of sexual fantasies and their potential to awaken healing is Your Brain on Sex. After reading the book, I interviewed the author, Dr. Siegel, in what would become a watershed moment in my own sexual evolution and pleasure. The basic premise of his work is that our brains are continually working to heal us subconsciously—in both dream and fantasy states.

Siegel argues that the subconscious brain mines all of our unresolved emotional issues and internal conflicts and reconfigures them as we sleep to try to help us resolve and manage developmental challenges. The same process happens in the subconscious as the brain begins to mature in puberty, when the deep subconscious develops unique erotic fantasies to make pleasure out of pain.

Put simply, this means our fantasies are an attempt by the subconscious brain to heal unresolved emotional issues.

This fantasy-creation process takes place without our conscious knowledge or active participation in early adolescence. Whether our emotional issues relate to abandonment, overbearing parents, or acute feelings of unworthiness, our brains use these painful, unresolved childhood memories to create sexual fantasies that have the potential to liberate us from pain by transmuting it into pleasure. Because the subconscious is doing the work, these fantasies are not filtered through or tangibly influenced by external factors. That's why our fantasies tend to be things our conscious minds are embarrassed, ashamed, or frightened of. (But that is exactly the point of them.) It's also the reason a person's fantasies are as unique as our fingerprints.

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How can you begin to accept and embrace your own fantasies?

It took more than a decade of marriage for me to give myself permission to let my fantasies play themselves out, and years more for me to feel empowered enough to share some of them out loud. I remember being confused and overwhelmed by persistent fantasies that spun through different times in my life, in which I was different ages, and in some of which I was dominant while in others I was submissive.

They frightened me with their intensity and content, but their erotic effect on me was unquestionably powerful. As I redirected the energy I had previously put into suppressing my sexual fantasies into embracing them, the sexual passion and satisfaction I experienced with my husband was amplified exponentially. Erotic fantasy is its own kind of role-play—it allows me to move through a kaleidoscopic range of different selves, each of whom experiences sex with my husband in a different way.

The universal themes of power and control, submission and dominance resonate with all of us.

Why else did Fifty Shades of Grey become a global sensation? The place pleasure meets pain is where that transformative sexual healing occurs. Allowing ourselves to experience the pleasure that comes with embracing our fantasies rewires our brains. By brazening through our fear, we can create reward pathways in our brains associated with these things that used to traumatize and limit us. By experiencing fantasy-based pleasure and acknowledging the painful memories and past wounds that are allowing us to feel that pleasure, we take back the power of our pasts.

Just by becoming curious and allowing the fantasies that live inside of us to breathe, we start to make the connections required for healing to occur. With practice, we become more skilled in making healthy sexual choices that allow us to explore our fantasies fully and without shame, all the while healing the broken parts in which they originated. Coming to understand our drive for sexual pleasure as the healing mechanism it is frees your erotic self to explore, to grow, and to play.

Want more insight into your relationship? Find out the things you should always be selfish about in your partnerships and the questions that could keep your marriage from ending.

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