Dr. Matthew Paldy

Unconscious Fantasies as Defense Mechanisms

"Is it possible to demonstrate other ways in which unconscious fantasy contributes to the function of defense? Clinical practice indicates that the answer to this question is affirmative. It is not possible, however, to say that all defense mechanisms are mediated through unconscious fantasy. The use of fantasy in defense was described by Anna Freud in connection with the mechanism of denial in fantasy (22). Defensive uses of identification, undoing, and denial are readily incorporated into unconscious fantasies. One of the best known of fantasies, a fantasy which is oriented almost exclusively toward the ego function of fending off anxiety, is the unconscious conceptualization of the woman with a phallus. Although this fantasy serves as the essential condition for sexual gratification of the fetishist, the fantasy itself is primarily defensive in nature. The function of this particular fantasy is to reassure the subject against castration anxiety. It was in discussing this phenomenon that Freud described the split of the ego in the defensive process (33). He was referring to the contradiction between the accurate conscious conceptualization of the female anatomy as opposed to the unconscious concept which in fantasy endows the woman with a phallus. What the fetishist perceives in reality, he denies in fantasy. Certainly this demonstrates that unconscious fantasy may involve definite visual and verbal concepts. The fantasy of the phallic woman is a specific example of denial in unconscious fantasy and it is a common feature of many clinical entities, e.g., voyeurism, exhibitionism, transvestitism, some forms of homosexuality, and some special types of object choice in men..">
-- from Unconscious Fantasy and Disturbances of Conscious Experience, by J. Arlow.