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Searl, N. (1929). The Flight to Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 10:280-291.

(1929). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10:280-291

The Flight to Reality

N. Searl

Phantasies are always better or worse than reality—a truism, perhaps.

Yet we may ask ourselves why, in speaking of them, we tend to think first of the 'better than reality', the day-dream type (I do not think I am libelling my fellow-analysts in making this assumption); and why in this thought-region where the pleasure-principle holds undiminished sway terrifying phantasies should play the very large part which they undoubtedly do. The 'day-dream' phantasy says, 'this is what I should like'. But of the 'worse than reality' type no such simple statement is possible. These are in no circumstances whatever what 'I' should like: they are distinctly what 'I' should not like. If they were carried out in reality 'I' should be seriously damaged or should even cease to be at all.

I will suggest some solutions.

1. These are disguised phantasies of castration. But this is obviously no solution, and even presents us with an additional problem: why disguise a phantasy of disaster by that of a worse disaster? I am thinking particularly of phantasies of being cut, eaten, burnt up, of wholesale destruction.

2. These show the presence of a masochistic factor. Undoubtedly. Little Hans, for instance, in his fear of being bitten by the horse, gives some expression to his wish for a love-bite from his father. But this does not at all explain why 'sexual masochism' should place the ego in fear not merely of hurt, but of complete destruction. The mention of 'sexual masochism', however, reminds us that there is also the factor of 'moral masochism': little Hans thinks his father would bite him because of his own evil wishes towards him. Thus my third suggestion is:

3.

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