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Life Satisfaction: Being Realistic

So far we have focused on impulse control as a central feature of the Freudian concept of ĎEgoí.  The concept of reality testing was also central to Freudís conception of Ego and developing the skill of reality testing is a key element of Cognitive Therapy

Let us return for a moment to the assumptions I outlined as central to the model I follow for understanding life satisfaction.

  1. We all have many fantasies about what we want in life.
  2. How far we are away from achieving these goals or fantasies and whether or not we feel that we are steadily moving towards these goals will determine how happy we are and how much life satisfaction we experience.

Now if our goals are unrealistic, then we will not be achieving them or moving towards them.  This will make us unhappy.  So I also believe that setting realistic goals is central to our happiness and life satisfaction.

How Does Unrealistic Thinking Deveop?

At the furthest end of the extreme, some individuals who have experienced much frustration in life begin to fantasise about having a better life.  This makes sense really, itís a defence mechanism used to escape the realities of difficult experiences and of unhappiness.  These fantasies are invented because the individual is not getting what she wants in the real world, so the pretend world becomes her place of refuge.  For those with weaker life skills, however, the fantasy world has often become such a frequented place, that reality and fantasy become somewhat blurred in her mind.  She begins to believe that her fantasy world can become reality.  This may seem strange to the more realistic individual.  However, for the less emotionally stable individual, the tendency to believe that unrealistic fantasies can become reality has often been learnt from a very young age.  We all know that if we tell a four year old something unrealistic, for example that some people can fly or do magic, its is likely that she will readily believe us.  It is perhaps at this age that many, who now still think unrealistically, develop this character trait.  The child fantasises about an unrealistic world in order to escape the realities of life.  As children grow up, most learn to become more realistic and leave behind some of their more childish fantasising tendencies.  However, some who are unhappy, do not learn to do this.  The unrealistic individual clings onto his fantasy world, since most defence mechanisms offer some immediate (although not long-term) alleviation from inner turmoil, even if they are unhealthy.  Fantasising is no exception. 

         "If our goals are unrealistic, then we will not be achieving them or moving towards them.  This will make us unhappy.  Setting realistic goals is central to our happiness and life satisfaction."