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Do You Have A Hospital Fantasy?

Do You Have A Hospital Fantasy? | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

Imagine this:

You get into a car accident. Not a major one, mind you. Just a little one.

Enough to make you and the emergency service attendants around you want you to go to the hospital to get checked up.

You get there and they announce they need to run some tests and keep you there for a few days.

You’ll be alone in your hospital room, being tended to by nurses, supported by amazing professionals.

Do You Have A Hospital Fantasy? | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

Do You Have A Hospital Fantasy?

You won’t have any errands to do, meals to cook, and your partner and colleagues will have to fend for themselves.

You’ll have food brought to your bedside, clean sheets changed out for you, silence or TV of your choosing.

You won’t have any responsibilities or obligations other than to just be there and rest while others look after you…

Now tell me: did some part of you really secretly like that idea?

If you’re like so many overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out adults that come to therapy, probably you did.

I call this The Hospital Fantasy and it’s a big clue that you have some personal work to do.

Here’s why.

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What the “Hospital Fantasy” teaches us:

The “Hospital Fantasy” as I call it is, quite simply, a catastrophic, conflated, or exaggerated daydream that signals that some part of you is in greatly in need.

You may not have the “Hospital Fantasy” per say, but you may have other versions of it where the content and narrative of the fantasy looks different:

Perhaps your dream looks more like running away to a cottage in the Scottish Highlands where you can be alone for three months.

Or maybe it looks like ditching your life and making your way to Montana to work at a simple hourly job as a waitress in a small town diner.

Alternatively, if you may imagine divorcing your spouse, selling all your belongings, and moving to Australia to live out of a van in a beach town.

Whatever the content of your own particular recurring fantasy, whether it’s catastrophic or not, there is likely a big clue in there waiting for you.

Where do these fantasies come from anyway and should we really pay attention to them?

Why do we have spontaneous, seemingly destructive or self-sabotaging fantasies?

I personally think it’s a cry from our soul, our psyche, our unconscious that we are ignoring some big need of ours and so some part of us acts out in imagination and reverie to get our attention.

Why do we have fantasies like this?

Well, being a working adult in this modern world alone primes most of us to be set up for overwork, overwhelm, and under-attuning to ourselves.

Add onto it parenting, breadwinning, adulting, coping with unprocessed trauma from your childhood that consumes your mental or emotional energy, a lack of modeling and support in setting healthy and appropriate boundaries, financial pressures, and more, all of this can add up to a time (or times) in your life when a part of you may long for something catastrophic or fantastical to compensate and reorient your life.

But should we really pay attention to these fantasies?

Yes and no.

I personally don’t think that these fantasies are exactly what we want and that we should immediately go out and get ourselves into those scenarios. Not at all!

But I do believe that each of these fantasies contains a big clue for us that we’re excessively beyond our capacities in some way and that we likely need to take better care of ourselves and put boundaries in place in some way.

For instance, the hospital fantasy revolves around being cared for and not having to care for others.

The Scottish Highlands scenario may be a cry for solitude and space from others.

The waitress in a Montana diner reverie may be a clue that you feel overwhelmed by the spotlight and responsibilities of your current work and personal life, that you’re craving more simplicity.

The divorcing your spouse and moving halfway around the world daydream may speak to a longing for a 180 life shift, though not necessarily with regards to your partner and place.

Each of these scenarios has a clue for us to pay attention to, a clue that asks us to effectively inventory our life and see if we can take better care of ourselves, put better boundaries in place, and give ourselves the essence of what we’re longing for.

What to do with your “Hospital Fantasy”:

  • First, acknowledge it for what it is: a spontaneous, imaginative vignette that has some clues for you. Remember that it’s probably not so much that you actually want to end up in the hospital/move to Scotland/work as a waitress/ditch your spouse, but rather that it’s about the essence of what that reverie contains for you that we want to pay attention to.
  • Examine the reverie for the clues it contains. Does the heart of your fantasy speak to a need for support? Space? Solitude? Freedom? Creativity? Inquire about the essence of the fantasy, get in touch with what the true longing is there. You may know you’ve hit the nail on the head when the answer brings somatic clues whether this is tears to your eyes or a deep sigh or letting down of your shoulders.
  • Next, inventory your life for ways that that longing of yours could be met. Are you craving some support and someone to take care of you? Is that at the essence of your hospital fantasy? Being in a hospital means you’re taken care of, you can release burden to others in there. So how can you curate and create this experience in your life? Does it mean hiring a once a month housekeeper, signing up for Instacart grocery delivery, hiring a financial planner or a therapist? Be curious about how you can cull the overwhelm in your life and give yourself more of that essence.
  • Set the boundaries you need to set to emotionally and mentally free you up more. Clear that you need a weekend away once a month from your partner? Have a dialogue with them and plan this into your calendar. Unwilling to go all-out for Christmas anymore and visit relatives you just don’t want to see and end up miserable as the new year rolls around? Create new and different holiday rituals. Do you have some emotional vampires in your life that you need to create space from? Do it. This work – boundary setting – can feel really hard and foreign for many, particularly us women who have historically been conditioned by families and societies to be self-sacrificing and non-assertive. Check out this article I wrote if boundary setting feels like a particular challenge for you. Also, recall what the brilliant Brené Brown, Ph.D. has to say about people who set boundaries: “The most compassionate people I have interviewed… were absolutely the most boundaried.”
  • Explore your world beliefs and unconscious operating patterns that led you to burn out. Even if you know you need support/space/solitude/a release of perfectionism and pressure, you may still not allow yourself to have these things. This is when you need to do some deep reflection on your worldviews, your stories, the unconscious and internal rules you have for yourself about what you are and are not allowed to do and how you move through the world. You can practice all the yoga and drink all the green juice in the world, but if you’re still moving through your days with a belief that says, “I’m not safe, I can’t slow down.” you can bet this anxious energy will likely prohibit you from slowing down and deeply resting, contributing to your Hospital Fantasy. Working with a therapist can be a great support in uncovering and changing any unconscious, self-limiting beliefs and behaviors that keep you from crafting the life you truly want, even after you identify what’s at the essence of your “Hospital Fantasy.”

Wrapping this up.

I hope that in reading this you felt less alone, more seen, and more supported in recognizing what’s at the heart of your own “Hospital Fantasy.”

As a therapist and fellow adult living a big, full urban modern life, I know that life can often feel really hard and that we will find ourselves in times and places where it seems like we just can’t free up any more emotional or mental bandwidth.

And perhaps there honestly will be times where you truly can’t do more to take care of yourself!

Grinding through graduate school or training, becoming a first-time parent and dealing with sleepless newborn nights, having a sick relative move in with you – these challenges are very real and very complex.

But even in these times, especially if we’re continuing to have “Hospital Fantasies”, there may still be some reflection and exploration work we can and must do in order to support ourselves. I invite you to be curious about this.

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Can you relate to having your own version of the “Hospital Fantasy”? What have you learned you need when these fantasies come up? What’s at the heart of it for you? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.

If you would like additional support with this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

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  1. Breanne says

    I had this happen about a year ago and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t know why I had an urge to leave it all behind and take off and most of my friends have this too. Thank you so much for laying it out like this!! So clear and without judgement. Such a gift to feel less alone and have so much help with the expression.

    • Annie says

      Hi Breanne,

      It’s great to hear from you and I’m so glad that this post gave you some clarity on why you were having the fantasy to leave everything behind. The reality is, most of us have our own personal version of the “Hospital Fantasy”, so you’re not alone in that!

      Again, I appreciate you taking the time to write and am glad the post inspired you to share your experience.

      Warmly, Annie

  2. Joan says

    Yes! I have a hospital fantasy. It has existed for many years and it comes and goes. I’m glad to see it named because it never occurred to me that others might have it, too. To me, it seemed like I was wishing ill on myself, but now I see it means that I need rest. Rest from always being the one to ‘stand guard’ and figure everything out. Exhausting. You are on point about the unprocessed trauma, pressures of parenting, lack of role models, etc. —I see this in my life. Essentially I felt that I raised myself and my 3 younger sisters because my parents were unable. I’ve had more than a decade of psychotherapy, plus I’ve added in somatic processing, energy work, yoga, meditation, etc. The amount of desire to escape and just be cared for sometimes seems endless. Thanks for this article – good job —it definitely resonates and helps.

    • Annie says

      Hi Joan,

      Thank you so much for reading this article and for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. It sounds like you’ve been on quite a healing journey and you have first-hand experience with putting many of those article’s suggestions into practice. I think it’s great that you were able to discern the heart of your fantasy as a need for rest, and that you have chosen to take on many wonderfully supportive things like psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, and more to show up for yourself. Good for you!

      Again, I want to thank you for sharing your experience so generously, and I wish you all the very best as you move forward.

      Warmly, Annie

  3. Courtney says

    I desperately need to somehow feel “taken care of”. My fantasy per se is that I just get put into the hospital and don’t have to make any of my own decisions or take care of anyone and no one can even contact me for a few days!

    Does anyone have any advice? How can I feel less taken for granted and “used up” by the the end of the day? I have very little free time since I work full time and am trying to complete my degree online. HELP. I’m sure there are many in my same situation.

    • Annie says

      Hi Courtney,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and share your experience. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on right now and makes total sense that you are having a hospital fantasy. I would recommend taking the little free time you do have to explore ways to set better boundaries which could emotionally and mentally free you up more, and help prevent against that feeling of being taken for granted and “used up” by the end of the day.

      Additionally, I would consider alternative ways to support yourself and cull any feelings of overwhelm. Is there someone in your life or a local service that could help take something off your plate? Lastly, it may even help to take some of your free time to practice self-care.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write and share more of your experience with me. I hope these suggestions feel helpful to you!

      Warmly, Annie

  4. Anna says

    This really speaks to me so much. Thank you for the helpful, guiding, ideas on exploring these thoughts. It has come at just the right time for me.

    • Annie says

      You’re so welcome, Anna. I’m glad you found the article especially helpful at this moment in your life and thank you for taking the time to write. Wishing you all the best on your healing journey. Warmly, Annie

  5. Christina says

    I have had all the fantasies you listed at some point in my life, and the hospital fantasy is the most recurring. I truly felt like I was the only one with that longing, which made me feel even more twisted and alone. Your article really speaks to me and I felt even less alone after reading in the comments that other people also identify with this. I was nodding my head up and down as I read in Courtney’s comment that a specific part of the hospital fantasy is not having to make any decisions.
    YES! I’m going to spend some time writing in my journal about what exactly is “causing” this fantasy, and how I can achieve some relief (without being admitted to a hospital!). I also realized from your section on boundaries that I have a lot of work – and pondering – to do in that arena as well. Thank you, yet again, for writing about such an important, resonating topics.

    • Annie says

      Hi Christina,

      Thank you so much for sharing how this post resonated with you. I’m touched to hear that you felt less alone after reading the article and everyone’s comments. It’s wonderful that you can relate to, and validate, Courtney’s experience.

      I think that your plan to do more reflection and exploration work around your fantasy and boundaries is a great way to support and show up for yourself. Thank you again for taking the time to read my post and I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

      Warmly, Annie

  6. LHF says

    Wow! This really resonated. I thought I was the only one who ever thought this type of thing!! Ive had a “hospital fantasy” for many years as well as the fantasy of leaving everything behind, running away, and living in a studio apt in NYC with my dog. I’ve been in therapy on and off for the last 10 years or so but currently not in therapy, and in a wonderful stable marriage with two young children. Yet… I still fantasize about running away or being cared for in a hospital setting. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever loved, but it can suck you dry. I often feel guilt even thinking that. But I often feel overwhelmed and lacking doing things for my self, including hobbies I’ve once loved. This article is really helping me step back and observe that. Pre kids I was always very independent and a bit introverted at times, and I think the 2 hardest adjustments to parenthood for me has been “me time” and sleep. So of course I fantasize about going somewhere where that could happen. I’ve often been saying I need to put my oxygen mask on first, but I really need to make it a reality, not a fantasy, as difficult as it may be. Thank you for helping open my eyes and making me feel not so alone.

    • Annie says

      Hi there,

      I’m glad to hear this article resonated with you and thank you for sharing your personal experience so generously. It sounds like you have insightfully and effectively taken inventory of your life and have a clear understanding of the potential sources of your fantasies – great job! As you mentioned, I would encourage you to identify some ways in which you can realistically make things feel more manageable in your day-to-day. Whether it is by practicing self-care, setting boundaries, therapy, or something else. I hope this feels helpful in some small way.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read my post and I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

      Warmly, Annie

  7. Tom says

    Yes I do and it drives me crazy. My reasoning is different from this article and other people’s comments so far. With me, I think about how dreadful it will be to be a patient. Yes, that sounds nice about being taken care of, but I prefer to not have a fantasy at all. I get those feelings before going to a doctor a lot. I have a fantasy of being told I have to go to the hospital and how dreadful it will be for me being there.

    I was in the hospital once for surgery. I’m fine now. It was not as bad as I thought it would be, but I hope to never set foot in one again. Seeing any hospital from the outside gives me the creeps. Maybe I’m just different.

    • Annie says

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Tom. I think this perspective – to hope to never set foot in a hospital again – is also a very common one. Warmly, Annie

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