Recovery: How to read your fantasies

​When you do accountability well, it can feed into recovery work. Accountability is inviting someone to hold you responsible for your actions and help you respect your own values. Recovery work is the messy but oh-so-liberating task of excavating your inner wounds in order to craft them into something positive.

These wounds are what hold us captive, and may be the result of trauma, neglect, abandonment, uncertainty, relationship severance or a whole range of other triggers. With recovery, the need for accountability will gradually decrease, as you will grow into an incredible freedom where sexual compulsion is no longer your go-to. I suggest getting used to your baseline accountability questions and process before beginning to probe your heart in this way. It’s a lot to take on at once. Discuss the timing with your chosen support.

Recovery work is vital, but not always necessarily with your accountability partner. It may require a professional or twelve-step group (such as SLAA or SA). However, if your partner is up for it, there are some great resources out there to help you on the journey!

I highly, highly recommend reading Marnie Ferree’s astounding book ‘No Stones: Women redeemed from sexual addiction”. Take it one chapter at a time; it is an incredibly heart-rending journey. Each chapter ends with a series of reflection questions. Take as long as you need to process these with someone.

XXXChurch also offer in-depth L.I.F.E Guides. They are recovery workbooks geared toward a group setting including fairly intensive ‘homework’ each session. It is possible to use in smaller groups or one-on-ones. It’s a big commitment but very much worth it.

These are my top picks, but check out the Resources page for more recommendations.

My accountability partner and I got good at asking The Big Three Questions, before moving onto the advanced class: recovery. Here too, questions were vital. There will always be much to explore but we began exploring the nature of our fantasies; we sought to understand our deepest emotional desires. We found our recurring fantasies were a window into core wounds. They were the mind’s way of resolving trauma or emotional deprivation. However, these were a hindrance rather than a help! Fantasy keeps us locked inside the trauma event or pain. True healing comes when we understand the root of our suffering and can work on resolution and healthy fulfillment.

Most women have a ‘favorite’ or recurring fantasy, and it is loaded with meaning. We explored ours to discover what our unmet needs were. We did this through careful questions:

  1. What is my most common fantasy? (Gory details not required)
  2. Who is involved and who may they represent? (Although sexual, they may represent a non-sexual figure e.g Father or Mother)
  3. What is the setting? (Is it the place of your trauma? Is it safe or dangerous? You may be reliving or escaping the event)
  4. What is happening? (Are you reliving abuse, either as a perpetrator or victim? Is it a nurturing place? Are you desired? In control or out of control?)
  5. What do you think the emotional need behind the fantasy is? (Nurturing, mothering/fathering, safety, power, control, processing assault, being loved and known, desired, comforted, yearning for a particular person etc)

There may not be one clear answer. Our histories, experiences, personalities and lives are all unique, and complicated! Coping with intense emotion can become a mess of mixed intentions, hopes and pain. You will likely have a number of different aspects to your fantasie(s) and pain. It takes time to gain clarity.

Personally, I came to see I was reliving very specific sexual traumas, but ‘fixing’ them. In my fantasy, the ‘act’ was the same, but I had control, I was enjoying myself, I was desired. The shame of the reality was too great, so my mind tried to make it okay. I felt worthless, like I wasn’t even good enough for sex, let alone love. So in my fantasy, I was cherished enough for someone to want to make the effort to please me.

I was void of gentle touch and nurturing growing up. I felt abandoned by my parents. This melded with my sexual trauma left me in a constant state of fantasizing about being wanted, known, cared for and lovingly touched.

Understanding my fantasy revealed I was attempting to resolve trauma, abandonment issues, embarrassment and shame through sex. I believed I was not worth loving, and not worth making love to. Self-awareness paved the path for truly facing these issues with a professional, and finding true healing that has led me into freedom (As of today, I am seventeen months porn FREE! Yay!)

These revelations will stir an ache in your heart that feels insatiable and bitter. Basically, accountability and recovery questions suck. But take your time, cry often and never stop questioning and answering, even when it feels too much. But remember to be gentle on yourself, too. Ensure you are being cared for, and participating in self-care regularly (read: rest, play, buy yourself flowers, whatever recharges your soul). You will learn to lean on Jesus in a totally new and vulnerable way in this time. You will learn to let Him fulfill the needs of your heart and teach you true intimacy.

Planned, intentional questions asked with care are vital to accountability and recovery. They are worth answering, even if your face is red, your shame is deep and your legs want to run far away. It certainly is an emotional pilgrimage. Working recovery is an act of true courage. It takes incredible strength, but is entirely possible.

Recovery is strong. Recovery is brave. Recovery takes guts. And you’ve got them.

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