2D Love as a Coping Mechanism
This article is part of a series on 2D Love. You’ll find the first part of this article series — the introduction — here:
Falling in Love with Fictional Characters
Studies on 2D Love, Part 1/10: What is 2D Love?
So far this article series has presented two reasons why people fall in love with fictional characters, while part one gave an introduction. Part two explained that some people turn to the 2D world to experience love, as they struggle to find a real life partner according to socio-cultural circumstances. Part three showed that fiction can be erotic for some people, as it provides them with a playground for thought where they can unfold themselves and where their dreams can come true in a certain way. This is especially important for children and young adults, as this chapter will show and explain why this is not to be considered a coping mechanism in that case. Added to that, this chapter also mentions another reason why people fall in love with fictional characters — making use of it as a coping mechanism to hide their own problems.
This chapter will start with explaining what the term “hugblanketing” means, which is defined in the subreddit r/waifuism as:
“Hugblanketing is a term where a waifu is used simply as a tool to make someone feel better. A hugblanketer will drop a waifu for a real person if given the opportunity.„
In a survey the participants where asked if the following definition is correct for this term:
“Hugblanketing is when you have a problem with yourself (anxiety issues, being extremely shy, etc.) and you start to try to overcome that problem by starting a relationship with your favorite character instead of working on yourself.”
30 out of 69 participants ticked the first box that said that “this is a correct definition”, 23 of them ticked the second box that said that “hugblanketing” is something completely different” and 16 ticked the third box that said that the “definition is not enough”.
A 18–20 year old participant, who ticked the first box, wrote:
“I know a person who does use it as [a coping mechanism] instead of talking to a psychiatrist about their Anxiety [sic. ]and Depression [sic.], and that person needs actual help, I am not saying to leave waifuism, but just don’t use it as a crutch.”
A 25–29 year old participant wrote:
“i [sic.] think a llot [sic.] of people use 2D love as a mean to escape the problem they do not want to deal with it […] i [sic.] do think some of these people need to evaluate themselfve [sic.] before they commit to this lifestyle then again for some it is only for a while”
People who are using 2D Love as a coping mechanism are projecting something from themselves into their favorite character. Honda Toru says that people who feel lonely “project desires onto objects around them. In moé culture, anything can take the shape of a cute girl”. Furthermore, he argues that anime series like K-On!, where cute girls are acting cute, have no romantic angle at all. Men can watch the show and imagine a relationship with the girls.
Putting a mask on someone else is nothing that only happens in 2D Love, it also happens when people are in love with real human beings. It is appropriate here to mention that there are people looking for a partner, for example in excessive online dating, who cannot stand alone in their life. They are seeking strength out of a relationship with a good-looking partner. They are looking for an ideal to fall for, but that ideal is always imperfect because it is their ideal. Through this behavior people create an environment where they feel save and banish anxiety from it. This process is known as “transference as fetish control” by psychotherapists. A “regressive phenomenon, uncritical, wishful, a matter of automatic control of one’s world”, as Ernest Becker writes.
The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm writes:
“In order to overcome his sense of inner emptiness and impotence, [man] […] chooses an object onto whom he projects all his own human qualities: his love, intelligence, courage, etc. By submitting to this object, he feels in touch with his own qualities; he feels strong, wise, courageous, and secure. To lose the object means the danger of losing himself. This mechanism, idolatric worship of an object, based on the fact of the individual’s alienation, is the central dynamism of transference, that which gives transference its strength and intensity.”
Silverberg defines that:
“Transference indicates a need to exert complete control over external circumstances. […] In all its variety and multiplicity of manifestation […] transference may be regarded as the enduring monument of man’s profound rebellion against reality and his stubborn persistence in the ways of immaturity.”
Carl Gustav Jung believed the idea is to reject all projections and not to identify the women you meet with your anima projection. He called this individuation. Falling in love with someone means to really let go of all projections, to look through the person you’re falling for and to accept their personality. An example here is the marriage between the Irish poet William Butler Yeats and Georgie Hyde-Lees. Very soon after their marriage, she began writing automatically, writing whatever came out of her fingertips without thinking about it. She began writing the whole philosophy of Yeats — which he didn’t even know about yet.
If we take again a look on who falls in love with fictional characters and starts a relationship with them, it becomes clear that most of the people are teenagers. Out of 88 participants of a survey, who said that they are in a “relationship” with a fictional character, 11 were under 14 years old, 28 were 15 to 17 years old and18 to 20 years old.
Youth is a critical age for one’s psychological experience. As Alfred Adler puts it,
“the child is in a position of physical and psychological inferiority to the adults — he is encompassed by their whole world. He is forced to change his own authentic pleasure, earned by his living organism, for a fictional pleasure that he doesn’t understand […] If he is to expand and grow in such a world he has to replace his own authentic movement with a fictional framework of value.”
This is where fictional stories become important for young people. As Otto Rank writes in his The Myth of the Birth of the Hero:
“The hero is the child of most distinguished parents, usually the son of a king. His origin is preceded by difficulties, such as continence, or prolonged barrenness, or secret intercourse of the parents due to external prohibition or obstacles.”
That fictional stories help children and young people to find their way in the adult world is definitely not a coping mechanism. It is natural, as well as the urge to be heroic, which will be discussed in part six of this series.
The question remains what “hugblanketing” really is.
In the subreddit r/waifuism a user wrote the following to the “hugblanketing” rule they have in this online community:
“I don’t plan on ever leaving my waifu. But just wondering, isn’t this kind of a weird rule? Aren’t all relationships ever for the purpose of making you feel better? Also, the majority of relationships, 2d or 3d are ‘settled’. Some even start off as a coping mechanism but then you develop a deeper connection over time and become more seriously commited [sic.].”
After reading the statement of probably one of the moderators of the r/waifuism subreddit, which they wrote in the survey, it becomes clear why this rule exists here:
“our community is more specialized around one on one relationships and taking them as seriously possible according to tradition to have a good stance with the public. The idea of 2d love is already hard to grasp, so having people run around switching waifus every other day and having a full harem with 20 moe girls wouldn’t sit well with lurkers or people just browsing the subreddit. I do believe these people SHOULD be included somehow, hence the 2dlove subreddit for more casual relationships.“
According to this statement the community wants to prevent people who treat their relationship with a fictional character as “casual”. This is the reason why they have put up a role which actually makes clear that you have to be truly with that character and that you do not “love” that character for any other motives in order to join that community. This should ensure that good light sheds on that online community and “relationships” with a fictional characters in general.
An example of a man that uses a relationship with a fictional character as a coping mechanism can be found in the movie Lars and the Real Girl. Here, the protagonist Lars Lindström, played by actor Ryan Gosling, isolates himself from society, because he developed a phobia of being physically touched by people. In attempting not to be alone, he orders a Real Doll online. He treats the doll as his girlfriend, although he does not perform any sexual interaction with it. Lars even comes up with a story behind her, telling other people that her name is Bianca, that she has nursing training and is from Mexico. According to him her parents died when she was a baby. Bianca is very religious and doesn’t want to sleep in the same house with a men before she gets married. That’s why he introduces Bianca to his brother and his fiancée, so that she can sleep in their house. They persuade Lars to bring Bianca to a doctor, who tells them that Lars has a delusion, which doesn’t necessarily need to be a sickness. It can be a communication problem. The doctor recommends them to go along with it. In the end the whole town gets involved in this, treating Bianca like a real citizen.
The director Craig Gillespie says that the movie is about people interacting with each other. The interaction here happens through the doll. Lars Lindström begins to use the doll to combat his problem of being scared by getting physically touched by people and therefore isolating himself from society. He’s getting together with other people through the doll. Bianca, who is obviously a fictional character, lives inside of Lars. As soon as he doesn’t feel alone anymore, starting a relationship with a women named Margo, he lets the doll die.
Another example can be found in the science-fiction movie Thomas est Amoureux. Here, the protagonist named Thomas is an agoraphobic young men, who never leaves his apartment. He has a sexual relationship with a virtual character, but he soon ends his relationship and even leaves his apartment for the first time after falling in love with a prostitute. The reason why his relationship with his fictional character is so fragile is because it is only based on sexual interaction. It is his therapist who advises him to have sexual interaction with a prostitute. After Thomas sees the prostitute Eva crying, he notices that she must be concerned about something. In comparison with the virtual character, Eva has a story that moves him to tears, while the virtual character is only used for sexual actions.
A list of other fictional sources where protagonists fall in love with fictional or virtual characters can be found here.
The question remains here how “hugblanketing” can be seen as a form of love. In case of Lars Lindström the relationship with a fictional character can help not only people to make experiences with themselves, but also to interact with like-minded people to make progress as a human being. This can help people to overcome fears, problems and social isolation. After this is done, the relationship has fulfilled its purpose. The fictional character doesn’t need to die then, as they can still be a huge inspiration for mastering life. The case of Thomas has taught us that sexual interaction cannot be the only function for a functioning relationship.
The next part of this series explains how 2D Love can be seen as an antistructure in society. It will be published on April 22.
1 Toru, Honda in Galbraith, Patrick W. (2014): The Moé Manifesto, p. 121ff. North Clarendon, USA: Tuttle Publishing.
2 Becker, Ernest (1973): The Denial of Death, p. 143. New York, USA: Free Press.
3 Fromm Erich (2011): The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, p. 52. Lantern Books.
4 Silverberg, W. V. (1948): The Concept of Transference, p. 321. In: Psychanalytic Quarterly, Vol. 17.
5 Campbell, Joseph in Kudler, David (editor) (2004): Pathways to bliss : mythology and personal transformation / Joseph Campbell, p. 79. California, USA: New World Library.
6 Campbell, Joseph in Lbd., p. 100ff.
7 Becker, Ernest (1971): The Birth and Death of Meaning, p. 59f. New York, USA: Free Press.
8 Rank, Otto in Segal, Robert A. (ed.) (1991): In Quest of the Hero, p. 57. Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press.
9 RAYGUN117 in starshine001 (2020): Regarding the Hugblanketing rule. https://www.reddit.com/r/waifuism/comments/duokql/regarding_the_hugblanketing_rule/