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Firestone, R.W. (1993). The Psychodynamics of Fantasy, Addiction, and Addictive Attachments. Am. J. Psychoanal., 53(4):335-352.

(1993). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 53(4):335-352

The Psychodynamics of Fantasy, Addiction, and Addictive Attachments

Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D.

Our first way of experiencing the world is largely what psychoanalysts have called fantasy. This modality has its own validity, its own rationality…. For most of our social life, we largely gloss over this underlying fantasy level of our relationship. (pp. 30-31)

R. D. Laing (1967) The Politics of Experience

Internal fantasy processes are inextricably involved in the etiology of addictive personality disorders, habit patterns, and attachments. Children deprived of emotional sustenance, threatened by separation anxiety, attempt to form a fusion through fantasy processes. The capacity for imagination is partially satisfying of primitive drives and emotional needs. Therefore, individuals deprived of “love-food,”1 the necessary ingredient for satisfactory development, rely increasingly on fantasy gratification, which partly reduces tension and acts as a painkiller. They develop a self-parenting process in which they are both the parent and the object of parenting.

There are two basic aspects to the self-parenting process: self-nourishment and self-punishment. Self-nourishing propensities arise early in life, for example, in the form of thumb-sucking, masturbatory activity, and other self-gratifying behavior patterns. These habits become addictive for the rejected child or adolescent, and reliance on this self-support system is proportional to the degree of deprivation.

Later, adults feed themselves more directly with food, alcohol, and various chemicals as in eating disorders or substance abuse. Self-punishing tendencies are also manifested in the form of internal destructive “voices,” self-critical attitudes, and behavior that is harmful to self.

Aspects of the self-parenting process can be externalized in the form of addictive interpersonal relationships.

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