When Fantasy Becomes Fixation II By Marielle Grenade-Willis, MA, LPCC

Whenever I feel lost in the world, I turn to Tara Brach’s archive of inspirational talks on mindfulness. Just hearing Brach’s voice helps to instill a sense of calm within me amidst a very busy mind. I generally pride myself on not only being in touch with my emotions but also expressing them clearly to others. Yet I notice a tendency in myself to seek out external reassurance when I generally feel overwhelmed and unaware of how I feel.

One of the most simple yet striking questions that I listened to Brach ask her audience in one of her podcast episodes was “What am I unwilling to feel?”.

Brach went on to describe four types of behaviors that inhibit our ability to be with our feelings: distracting, judging, obsessing, and speeding. From my own experience, I know these behaviors often conflate with each other as they co-occur at lighting speed.

To be invited to notice these behaviors and ask this straightforward question of myself felt like being magnetized by an emotional lodestone in which all of the debris of my experience suddenly organized itself. As an Enneagram Type 4, I realized that I often drop into a space of fantasizing (obsessing) when I don’t want to be in my everyday existence. This tendency comes so naturally that I often don’t even realize it’s happening. As a child of divorced parents, my very upbringing hinged on the ability to disconnect and disengage—watch a movie downstairs while my parents argued upstairs.

I will listen to the same song over and over to sustain a mood.  I will play a memory of an event over and over to savor it. I will read a book or watch a movie which takes me to another place and time. I will move through my day disassociated and disembodied in search of a better life, a better mood, or a better relationship. In my infinitely fixated escape, I am seeking out what I feel is missing in the here and now yet I am stuck in a cage of my own making.

And while the past two years in a pandemic have only magnified this behavior through our increasing reliance on technology, I can’t trash talk all of my fantasies because this world needs dreamers. As adrienne maree brown writes in Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, “Our radical imagination is a tool for decolonization, for reclaiming our right to shape our lived reality”. When I notice myself tripping over my own thoughts, I now want to ask if the stumbling is in service to my community because the idea wants to tread a path in this world or if it is merely trying to distract me from where I know I need to go.

Marielle Grenade-Willis is a current counselor with People House and has a MA from University of Colorado – Denver. With a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and a background in dance, dramatic, and vocal performance, she applies a somatic and systemic approach to the individualized work of counseling. Marielle works from a client-centered, experiential, narrative, and trauma-informed perspective with her individual clients. Prior to People House, she worked extensively in nonprofits focused on animal conservation, food access, and refugee welfare; and has had her poems read and published throughout the Front Range and beyond.