Phantasy of a Phantom Lover

It was something about having three kids instead of two, so-and-so having the ace of spades rather than the ace of clubs, hot-air balloons, and how very much “Jill” has always liked working on hot-air balloons. And then I heard my friend, “Jane Doe,” say to “John,” her boyfriend, that she really wanted to spend at least two years together before having a family and taking on more responsibilities.

All through this “conversation,” her boyfriend seemed to answer, or at least Jane was, at times, evidently responding to John. None of this really surprised me, because I’d lived with my friend in a group home for 14 months already and, thus, was quite used to her strange and  quirky “conversations,” and none of this is really unusual for schizophrenics. But Jane’s case is indicative of another condition, called “phantom-lover syndrome.”

Phantom-lover syndrome is “a type of erotic delusion elaborated around a person who in fact does not exist,”[1] yet for Jane her boyfriend (and fiancée, for that matter) is very real, indeed. In fact, he is said to be an older man, veteran of the Korean War, spiritual leader and Bible teacher, who is so close to the Lord that they communicate directly on a day-to-day basis. But this case of phantom love goes even further with Jane.

Asked where he lives, she usually answers, “up in Alaska.” Asked about how and when they communicate, (because no one has ever noticed her on the phone with John), she responds that they communicate “spiritually.” You see, John really lives inside of Jane, not in Alaska. She shared her secret with me, and explained that she doesn’t tell this to others because they would think she is crazy. (Well, that is, perhaps, quite understandable!)

And why does John live inside of Jane? Because, unfortunately, he currently has no body of his own. He will rectify this one day, finding a suitable body of his own to inhabit, and then John will come to fetch Jane away to be his wife, and the date for this is always December 31st of whatever year… Of course, many years have passed now and, obviously, John has never come to whisk her away, yet Jane continues to believe John, never suspecting that he might be lying to her or, better yet, that he might simply be an illusion.

Obviously, John inhabiting Jane’s body, (without kicking her out, mind you) sounds like some form of possession, although not malevolent, which in turn points toward some kind of dissociative disorder.[2] But possession may not be the best descriptive, as Jane experiences no apparent loss of control over herself, nor does she obviously enter into any kind of trance.[3] On the other hand, John exercises some control over her life, i.e. how she thinks and feels, what she wants and does not want, what she will and will not do, etc.

For example, although Jane presents herself as a staunchly conservative, evangelical Christian, she is apparently not allowed to attend church. As the reason for this prohibition, she claims that she and her boyfriend only like and/or appreciate “house churches.” When asked, in other words, she will simply say, “My boyfriend and I don’t go to regular churches. We don’t like organized religion. We only go to house churches.”

Of course, one could easily charge that Jane is merely using her “boyfriend” as an easy excuse for not attending church, which is something she would otherwise feel obligated to do, given her background and present beliefs. Perhaps, then, a better example would be her promise to an older friend that, after a year or so of marriage, she and her husband will bring her into their home and take care of her. Why? Because her boyfriend said so … but during their first year of marriage, of course, they have a lot of business to which they must attend.

Perhaps all of this is common with phantom lovers, I don’t know, but one fact is certain: There is no convincing Jane that her boyfriend is really illusory. I have not made the attempt, but know others who have, and Jane’s reaction is very predictable: She becomes upset, if not angry, and simply cuts off any relationship with that person. So … how would a counsellor/therapist address this problem? How can it be constructively addressed? Of course, she is on medication — she receives a shot once-a-month — but the medicine does nothing to alleviate her suffering … or so it seems to me.

Then again, maybe she’s not suffering? This is a distinct possibility, I suppose. After all, she appears to be happy, or at least content, most of the time. Maybe, then, John is more of a welcome addition to her life? I guess this is possible. Sometimes (oftentimes?) real reality can be like a living hell, which is why not a few people try somehow to escape as much as they can. And who among us has not built some fantastical world for ourselves? I know I have Point in fact, I still do, just without communicating with some phantasy lover/companion.

There is one downside in her relationship with John, (maybe more, of course), and that is that he frequently makes her itch all over. Why? She has never given a reason, but if unwanted itching is the only negative she has to put up with in her “relationship” with John, then Jane might be better off than a lot of folks with real lovers! Who knows? But at least she seems fairly happy with the arrangement… It might actually do her worse if a counsellor/therapist somehow managed to disrupt her para-reality. Best, then, to just leave it alone? Maybe so, and who knows? One day I might enjoy having a phantom lover myself!


[1] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 694

[2] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), 300.14, although no loss of personal agency or amnesia is evident, 292 – 294; perhaps, instead, 300.15, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder, which “includes identity disturbance associated with less-than-marked discontinuities in sense of self and agency, or alterations of identity or episodes of possession in an individual who reports no dissociative amnesia,” 306

[3] Jonathan Smith and William Scott Green, eds., The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion, 850

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Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

It was almost like a Twilight Zone® experience, seeing Angela and my brother-in-law, Charles, for the first time in about three to four months. It was as if I’d been somehow severed from my past life. This was necessary, I believe, in order to begin healing and growing stronger mentally, emotionally, spiritually… Mind you, I was very glad to see my eldest sister and her husband; it’s just that it was like some tidal wave washing over me from my previous existence.

Sitting in the small chapel area of the Samson Group Home on that Saturday morning, I found it somewhat difficult finding anything to say. The ensuing conversation was a bit stilted, but happy nonetheless, and, to my surprise, my sister actually said I looked better … stronger, more relaxed, with good complexion. Her appraisal made me feel good and added to the sense of hope that had been growing inside me over the past weeks in my new residence. Evidently she could see something outwardly that I felt inwardly.

She hadn’t called or visited before in order to give me time to really settle in and begin my psychological recovery. I completely understood. I needed the time in that safe, secure, and structured environment apart from the outside world, and I needed this because, quite frankly, I couldn’t handle “life as usual.” I could no longer shoulder life as it had been — hours upon hours behind closed doors in self-imposed isolation, deep depression, fear, mania, frustration and anger, strained relationships… 

I had been living to write, which was my love and passion, but even this had become an unbearable strain. Consequently, I’d started to keep a journal shortly after I arrived at the group home, but quickly had to leave off on that simply because it caused to much anxiety … or, at least, it was one contributing factor. I’d also loved to read, but after moving into my new residence I found that I just could not bring myself to open a book. Even the very thought of reading felt burdensome … stressful. 

Yes, sitting there in the little chapel area, looking at my dear sister, carrying on an enjoyable (however stilted) conversation … it all felt so surreal. I wish I had words to explain just how detached from the past I’d become. I suppose it was as if I’d entered into some kind of cocoon, and maybe I had; after all, the cocoon is where the beautiful butterfly grows. And in a very real sense, I would eventually emerge from that cocoon, splendidly reborn … heartier, braver, sober-minded and far more tranquil.

Of course, my emergence from the cocoon would come much later. During that first visit with my sister and brother-in-law I couldn’t imagine ever leaving the group home. This is not to say I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. No, I deeply desired to leave at some point in the future… I just couldn’t conceive of that actually happening. As I sat there looking at my sister’s radiant smile, listening to her encouraging words, it felt like I was looking and listening from across a great ravine … one without a bridge.

After about an hour, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Despite feeling somewhat detached, I was very grateful for the visit, and my spirit felt lifted. All in all, it was a very good (and important) experience. Really and truly, it came at just the right time. Looking back now, I can actually see God’s hand in that event. One might even say it was divinely orchestrated. At the very least, it was a taste of the outside world that I needed then, even if I didn’t consciously realize that at the time.

The next time Angela came, she came alone and took me on an outing, but before getting to that, I’d like to introduce you to some of the precious souls in what really became (in many ways) my new family. Until then, blessings to you and peace.


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Walk Away

Flowing peace now blowing underneath starlight sky,
Though we said goodbye with heavy sigh in the night
Before I took flight to the sight of hearth and home,
Leaving you behind, blind with tears n’ years of pain
Till it was plain that the love we had was truly insane
And the bane of our existence in an avid persistence
Of insistence that our affection win over an infection
Of cancerous proportions, sick and rotting our souls,
While scrolls of damnation were unrolled which told
Of our lustful communion in union with retribution
By a holy institution denied to an increasing pollution
Of our lives, but did we care? Ah! “Nay, nay!” we say,
And so you know why I walk away and cannot stay,
But I’ve left you with this kiss you will forever miss

Radiant Beloved

You are more radiant than the sun, my Beloved,
And I have only begun to sing of your beauty
When my voice takes wing in duty to our love

You deserve more adoration than bright roses
And the light reflected off the mountain lake
At the sight of which I but tremble and quake

You are fairer than ten thousand doves, my Love,
And from above the stars finely shine upon you
So wonderful and true — their service your due

And the moon sings in tune with all the heavens
So leavened with your presence, O my Beloved,
So I dare throw off every care for I am yours . . .

Let Me Sing to You

Let me sing of you as you sing to me, O Love above all loves,
And bring me into your home and heart as I give you mine,
And let the sign of our passion be grace with contemplation,
And may affection thus fill my soul even as you caress me
And make me wholly yours, my Beloved, through the hours,
Every step along the Way and every moment of every day
As I cry, ‘Stay with me through the light of day into the night,
Through every low valley up onto every height thru this life,’
And never let it be said that this poor man ever forgot you;
And so my song shall be sung long and on into the eternal,
Which shall be accompanied angelic choirs thru the hours
With power and might, in the face of Beauty shining bright
And fair as this man tears himself away from so many cares,
Diving ever more deeply into the layers of your love, O Love,
Now and forevermore as you care for me as everyone sees,
And so shall I sing my never-ending song as you sing to me

So I Belong to You

As the stars belong to the night and light to the day,
So I say, ‘I belong to you,’ and I long to be with you,
So, too, I will be true to you, my one and only love,
My dove from above, who hovers and covers me,
Always close at hand with bands of compassion
In passion of fire that never tires or ever wanes
In nearly insane affection but with no affectation
In connection with the best part of heart and soul,
Filling that hole with which I have lived for so long,
Giving me your own song sung sweet in meeting me
Each and every moment as I breathe in the fragrance
Of your undying devotion in unending motion forever!

Plea to My Son: Wisdom Living

So many times in life I thought I knew what was best
And I wore the vest of pride in stride with arrogance,
And I tried with all of my might to make it all so right
Only to fall into the dark night of the soul with a hole
In my heart and my mind bound against sound reason,
Collapsing into an awful season of tumultuous unrest,
And all the while there were blessings untold for me
That I could just barely see in the distance but would
Not touch in my insistence to forge ahead with plans
Of my own that were sown in isolation and darkness;
And, oh, how I wish now that I could go back and bow
To sense and sensibility, to rewrite my past in lasting
Joy and peace with a new lease on life . . . but no, son,
This I cannot do and so I sue myself in the court of life
So rife with pain and such little gain from such insane
Decisions and I hold my history in derision, my child;
So I say to you, do not walk the same path I’ve walked,
But be sober-minded and clear-headed and do pray
Before you say what you think you want and then leap
Without looking! Read the book of your own father
To learn and burn not with zeal but hear without fear
Wise counsel offered and open your eyes to see gifts
Already bestowed in your life and do not thrown away
What has been so freely given to enliven your fantasy!
Sense and sensibility under the cover of prayer, my son;
Take the higher and better road; yes, the better road!