A fantasy is a situation imagined by an individual or group that has no basis in reality but expresses certain desires or aims on the part of its creator. Fantasies sometimes involve situations which are impossible (such as the existence of magic powers) or highly unlikely; or they may be more realistic. Fantasies can also be sexual in nature. Another, more basic meaning of fantasy is something which is not real, or cannot be real.
In everyday life, individuals often find their thoughts pursue a series of fantasies concerning things they wish they could do or wish they had done...fantasies of omnipotent control or of sovereign choice or of sexual licence... daydreams. Perhaps indeed 'Dreams of office and power as motives of action - the Treasury Bench and the "Marshall's stick"...are almost universal and usually unavowed'.The roots of such dreams may lie in the omnipotence of the three year old, still liable to 'proclaiming that he was God...behind this outburst was a day-dream, a wish to be all-powerful, to compel others to do his bidding...[like an] underpaid clerk in a department store who consoled himself at night with dreams of glory in which a stroke of fortune put him in the boss's job.
Sexually speaking, men in particular 'may be driven to nurse their fantasies by looking at films and strip-tease shows, or by day-dreaming over pornographic material...when [their] feeling attitude toward life has remained infantile'. Alternately, one[who?] might valorise women's fantasies as 'brilliant insights into what motivates real life - clues to our identity as valuable as the dreams we dream at night...Fantasy is where the sexual drive does battle with opposing emotions'.
Vaillant in his study of defence mechanisms took as a central example of 'an immature defence...fantasy - living in a "Walter Mitty" dream world where you imagine you are successful and popular, instead of making real efforts to make friends and succeed at a job'.Fantasy, when pushed to the extreme, is a common trait of narcissistic personality disorder; and certainly 'Vaillant found that not one person who used fantasy a lot had any close friends'.
Other researchers and theorists find that fantasy has beneficial elements - providing 'small regressions and compensatory wish fulfilments which are recuperative in effect'. Research by Deirdre Barrett reports that people differ radically in the vividness, as well as frequency of fantasy, and that those who have the most elaborately developed fantasy life are often the people who make productive use of their imaginations in art, literature, or by being especially creative and innovative in more traditional professions.