Fantasy bond

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The fantasy bond is a type of relationship where the basic tie is based on routines and roles, rather than spontaneous feelings.[1] This can be an imaginary connection formed originally by the infant with the parent or primary caregiver, as well as an illusory connection to another person that adults attempt to establish in their intimate associations and which leads to deterioration in the relationship.[2]

This type of bond is differentiated from the positive bonding that occurs in secure attachments. The fantasy bond offers an illusion of love which prevents real emotional contact, and can be linked to the pseudo-independence of the self-parenting character.[3]


The origins of a fantasy bond can be found in the failures of childhood parenting, denial of which leads to an over-valuation and idealisation of the parent/parents in question.[4]

The result can be a sense of grandiosity based on the internalisation of the parental value systems,[5] an acceptance of the inner critic with its automatic thoughts[6] as a substitute for real relating.

Such over-idealisation of the past protects against the re-emergence of painful memories, but also ties into the perpetuation of current ersatz relationships[7] with only the object of idolatry changed in the new fantasy bond.[8] The fantasy bond acts as a painkiller that cuts off feeling responses and interferes with the development of a true sense of self, and the more a person comes to rely on fantasies of connection, the less they will seek or be able to accept love and affection in a real relationship.[9]

The fantasy bond is the primary defense against separation anxiety, interpersonal pain, and existential dread.[10] Infants naturally comfort themselves by using images and self-soothing behaviors to ease the anxiety of being separated from their caregivers, so when caregivers are often unavailable or inconsistent in meeting an infant's needs, the infant increasingly turns to an image of being connected to them.[10] This fantasy bond is a substitute for the love and care that may be missing.

Later life[edit]

In later life the fantasy bond may provide an illusory sense of safety against the threat of the approach of death.[11] To varying degrees, all people tend to make imagined connections with people in their lives. Many people have a fear of intimacy and at the same time are terrified of being alone. A fantasy bond allows them to maintain a certain emotional distance while relieving loneliness, but this bond reduces the possibility of achieving success in a relationship.[12]


Therapists are warned to guard against the emergence of a false transference based on a fantasy bond and fuelled especially by narcissism.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Philippa Perry, Couch Fiction (2010) p. 139
  2. ^ Firestone, Robert (December 5, 2008). "The Fantasy Bond: A substitute for a truly loving relationship". Psychology Today.
  3. ^ "Fantasy bond". June 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-11-25.
  4. ^ John Bradshaw, Healing The Shame That Binds You (2005) p. 104
  5. ^ Bradshaw, p. 69-70
  6. ^ Paul Gilbert, Overcoming Depression (1998) p. 68-9
  7. ^ Susie Orbach, The Impossibility of Sex (1999) p. 63 and p. 58
  8. ^ Perry, p. 100
  9. ^ Robert Firestone, Joyce Catlett "The Fantasy Bond: Structure of Psychological Defenses" (1987) p. 327
  10. ^ a b Robert Firestone "A concept of the primary fantasy bond: A developmental perspective."
  11. ^ A. Tomer, Death Attitudes and the Older Adult (2000) p. 81
  12. ^ Robert Firestone "Destructive Effects of the Fantasy Bond on Couple and Family Relationships"
  13. ^ Adam Cash, Wiley Concise Guides to Mental Health (2006) p. 216

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Firestone et al., The Fantasy Bond (1987)
  • Patricia Evans, Controlling People (2002)