There is debate about whether or not unicorns are real. Sadly, science has shown that if they were ever real, they were not the mystical, beautiful one-horned horses on the pages of our storybooks. Instead, they may have been some iteration of a large hairy rhinoceros that went instinct 30,000 or so years ago. Not quite mystical or beautiful. Sorry Rhinos!
But alas, that's reality. What is also reality is that thanks to stories passed down through generations, the beautiful mystical creatures we refer to as unicorns are alive in the imaginations of children all over the world. And that is a very good thing.
As very young children, we use our imagination to play out scenarios that may be impossible or improbable, meshing reality and fantasy as we are unable to distinguish between the two. This type of fantasy play is important for children to engage in in order to learn and prepare themselves for their adventure through life. Children need to believe they have superpowers, or have a unicorn as a friend, because:
It encourages their imagination and creativity to flourish while allowing them to simultaneously gain some control over their lives.
It builds confidence as they are free to ‘be’ whomever or whatever they want to be. . even a unicorn.
It enables the child to deal with real-life scenarios in a safe environment, including how to deal with changes in their lives.
It provides an opportunity for children to play games that involve social rules, cooperation, and collaboration which can all lead to understanding that life has rules and boundaries, as well as how to feel and show empathy.
Partaking in this fantasy world of make-believe provided us with an opportunity to choose to be as good or as evil as we wanted to be, and to create friends that played alongside us no matter what.
As time went on, and we grew up, our lives became less focused on fantasy and more focused on reality. Homework and then work for pay added to our ever-growing list of responsibilities. Some embraced this change of thought, while others, let the gremlins keep talking of superpowers and unicorns.
In psychology, the term fantasy is explained as a wide range of mental experiences, enhanced by imagination, and characterized by using vivid mental imagery to express certain desires. Although fantasies are usually associated with scenarios that are impossible or unlikely to happen, engaging in fantasy can be beneficial, even as adults. It can stimulate our creativity, expand our vocabulary, enhance our memorization skills, and may even help us find a creative solution to a problem.
Fantasy can be harmless, even helpful when used for fun. The issue comes in when reality becomes an inconvenience, and with or without our awareness, we try to avoid or escape certain aspects of our lives. While we walk around with blinders on, pretending not to see what is happening to and around us, time still passes and reality still happens. By refusing to be an active participant in reality, we give up control of our lives and any opportunity to create the life that we want. We become miserable as a self-fulfilling prophecy materializes. We become stuck in unhealthy negative emotions such as sadness, bitterness, anger, and shame as we try to fix things that can't be fixed, and change things that are out of our control. We have to suffer the consequences of the choices we made, for the reality we should have faced.
Facing reality means taking needed actions, having challenging conversations, and doing what needs to be done, even when it's not fun, it's scary, or it just plain ol' sucks. It means taking control of what you can in your life and embracing the fact that some things are simply out of your control, whether you like it or not. It means standing up for yourself, putting your best self out there, and giving your all for what you want.
Sure, reality at times can be way more challenging than any of us would like. However, the ability to gaze upon a summer sunset, to know the touch of a loved one, and to choose how and when you want to live your life your way makes all those challenges worthwhile. All you need to do is to keep the unicorns at bay.
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