This post on Reddit’s r/crossdreaming is a perfect example to what I mean by a third way to work with crossdreaming. His account is pasted below:
Ever since fifth grade, I have been fascinated by the thought of what it would be like to be a girl. Though it started out as just a curiosity, eventually this fascination developed into sexual fantasies that I would realize on sites like Fictionmania and others. These fantasies then became very compulsive–I would seek them out not exclusively for pleasurable curiosity, but from a need to escape the dull sameness of life into an idealized feminine persona.
Eventually, I would sometimes feel full-on despair at being male and not female. It’s not that I felt like a woman inside a man’s body–I was and still identify as male–but rather that I felt awful that my fantasies would never be realized, that I would never BE a girl.
I suppose I could have explored the transgender route, but that never appealed to me. Not only does my religious tradition frown on it, but my build is far too masculine for me to ever feel comfortable as a woman.
However, a few years ago–spurred on by my reading of Carl Jung’s psychological theory–I wondered: could there be another way to satisfy this desire without doing it literally? In other words, is there a way I could symbolically enact my fantasies without the pain and effort of transitioning? This seemed to me to be an intriguing possibility, and so I decided to explore it.
The first way this exploration happened was when, two years ago, I decided to experiment with Jung’s technique of “active imagination.” Though there’s probably an official definition for the technique somewhere, for me what it amounted to was to address myself to a personification of a certain emotion or set of behaviors, imagine their response back, and thus create a dialogue. So, I decided to create a fictional persona for all my drives toward “the feminine” or femininity. I called her Victoria, and as I experimented by talking to her with this technique, certain things slowly started to happen. Over time, I began to realize that this technique brought out the best in me–the more I did it, the more aware and conscious I was of my drive toward crossdreaming and the emotions that underlies them. I gained far more inner peace, and as I continue to do active imagination two years later, I can say that it has been the one most significant tool in helping me develop personally, socially, psychologically, and spiritually.
However, I noticed that many of my crossdreaming fantasies were still there. I still felt a compulsive desire to be a woman, and though I was more at peace with those feelings than before, I still felt a degree of dissatisfaction.
It was then that I read a book called The Invisible Partners by Jungian psychologist John Sanford. Though the book says many things about gender and sexuality, one idea resonates with me more than anything else: his claim that, as a rule of thumb, sexual fantasies are a symbolic representation of what a person needs to do to be one whole. I thought about this idea for a while, pondering on what it meant to me. I then realized that most all of my sexual fantasies involved my magically becoming another person, specifically a woman (through a body swap, a magical reality change, or what have you). I thought: “could it be that It really AM supposed to become another person, but not in a literal way?” In other words, I hypothesized that my desire to become a woman was just an imaginatively veiled desire to empathize with a woman, to “step into her shoes.”
So, I tried it out. I read the book about a year ago, and since then I’ve made a concerted effort to be more empathetic and selfless in my interaction with others. In retrospect, I now realize that my efforts to “become” another person through empathy were hugely beneficial–my crossdreaming has become much less prevalent, and I’ve had significantly more cis fantasies. I slowly realized over that time that my mind was protesting my self-involvement in the only way it knew how–the symbolic method commonly expressed in dreams.
Even more recently, I’ve realized that the feminine personification I called Victoria was a face I could give to the part of my mind that wanted me to get out of myself. The emotions and feelings she represented were encouraging me from the very beginning of my active imagination to get out and care about “the other” more than myself, and the book only served as the impetus to let it break the surface.
You might not hold much stock in Jungian psychology, and I’m not asking you to. But the techniques and ideas he parented have drastically changed a troublesome aspect of my mind that neither therapy nor meds were able to do anything with. So if you’re at your wits end with gender dysphoria or compulsive crossdreaming, consider taking your fantasies symbolically. I’m not guaranteeing that these methods will work in your case, but they have in mine, and so I feel obliged to share them here.
The third way is to neither repress the cross-gender self, nor to be controlled by her. Don’t treat her like a boss or an enemy but as a friend. I think also taking psychological constructs symbolically rather than literally can yield new insights.