What Is Wish Fulfillment?

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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A simple definition of wish fulfillment is the act of gratifying a desire, but it also can be defined in both psychology and psychoanalysis terms. Typically, wish fulfillment involves dreaming and daydreaming, or fantasizing. Sometimes, certain neurotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, might be present. Often, the intentions and motivations, as well as the dreams and daydreams, related to wish fulfillment are relatively risk-free. In some instances, bad faith self-delusion is involved and can cause the person problems.

Laymen can think of wish fulfillment as a term used to describe the act of satisfying a desire by indulging that desire in dreams or daydreams. For example, a person might daydream or fantasize about relationships, encounters, or tangible objects that he wants. He might daydream about how his life could change if he had a new job, or he might fantasize about going on a date with a woman he likes. Some people fantasize about what it would be like to have a new car, a bigger house, or expensive pieces of jewelry. Often, people dream about these desires, having no conscious control over the subject or occurrences in the dreams.

Psychology presents a similar definition. Yet, psychology adds that people might also release emotional tension during these dreams or daydreams, or present neurotic symptoms. These neurotic symptoms might be similar to delusions or even hallucinations.


When today’s psychoanalysis deals with wish fulfillment, it looks at the motivations for the dreams. Generally, these motivations are related to unconscious desires that both the ego and superego find unacceptable due to feelings of guilt or restrictions placed on humans by society. Sigmund Freud, the well-known neurologist who founded psychoanalysis in the late 1800s, took the idea of desires and fantasies a step further and believed that dreams are attempts to resolve conflicts. These conflicts might result from something that happened recently, or something that happened long ago.

Generally, wish fulfillment by way of daydreams, fantasies, and regular dreams are harmless. This might be especially true of dreams, during which the person has no control. Yet, when bad faith self-deception is involved in wish fulfillment, the person ignores every argument or piece of evidence that opposes the wish. He might even convince himself of a “truth” that isn’t actually true in order to free himself of the knowledge of his own deception. Such self-deception usually is studied along with the belief-formation, maintenance, and relinquishment of the ethics of belief, and might contribute to the delusions and hallucinations that can accompany wish fulfillment.


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