Why is it that when we can’t have someone, we want the person so much more?
Most of us have experienced a burning desire for the one person who’sjust out of reach, the one person we just cannot have.
Maybe it’s because this person is taken; maybe because this person is too hard-to-get. Or, maybe, this person simply doesn’t reciprocate our feelings. The fact is, despite all that rejection, we just want that one person so much more.
Then, there’s the all-important question: Why? Why is it that when we can’t have someone, we want the person so much more? Why do we overlook other suitable partners, who may be more readily available and potentially better for us, in favor of one who’s out-of-reach?
The answers boil down to the dynamics of the human mind, with four specific principles at play:
I’m not talking about the, “Don’t I look amazing in this sparkly dress?” type of vanity. I mean the type of vanity that pertains to one’s own self-image and is intrinsically tied to our senses of self-worth.
We, as humans, are vain by our very nature. We all like to feel special, attractive and important, as these are all things that pump up our pride, confidence and self-image.
Nobody wants to feel powerless, unattractive or unable to affect people.
The same is true of carrying a burning desire for that certain person you cannot win over. The fact that you want him or her but can’t have him or her is a blow to your personal vanity.
With personal vanity wounded, your mind will try to get your own sense of self-worth back up to what it was. It does this by pushing you to obtain the thing that did the damage in the first place, which, in this case, is that person you can’t have.
Chasing this person more aggressively will most likely push him or her even farther away from you, wounding personal vanity further and making you want him or her even more.
Our minds place value on things without us even realizing, and there are forces at work, which determine the value of a certain thing (or a certain someone). These forces are called supply and demand.
Yes, it may seem odd to use a core principle of economics to try and explain the inner workings of the human mind, but allow me to elaborate.
Something low in demand but high in supply is seen as less valuable; whereas, something high in demand but low in supply is seen as more valuable. The same is true of us humans when we place value on objects, experiences and even people.
If a person’s availability is restricted and we want the person’s time (whether it be in person, on the phone, through text, etc.), we have a demand for the person and the person is in low supply. This makes the person more valuable to us, which in turn, makes us want the person more because we see him or her as higher in value.
The truth of it, in those cases when we desire someone, the more restricted and scarce he or she is to us, the more we want him or her. It’s the essence of why those who are harder to get can be more attractive to others.
Desire is double-edged. We desire others according to our personal tastes, experiences and sexual preferences, but desire also has a social element.
We tend to more so desire those who are desired by others. The same is true of objects and things. For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant, you’d most likely choose one that has more people sitting in it, as opposed to one with no one in it.
This is due to social proof. If someone else desires something, our minds tell us it may have a quality that could interest us, which we find intriguing. So, if other people also desire that one person you want, it will make you want the person even more.
This also has an explanation rooted in jealousy. If someone else wants what we want, it may trigger our natural competitiveness in order to beat someone else to the punch. This goes back to both vanity and scarcity.
Being with that one desirable person will boost self-esteem; it feeds our personal vanity and the desire to be in favor with someone we perceive as high in value.
One of the principles by which our minds work is reciprocity. If we do something for someone, we unconsciously expect the person to do something for us in return. If someone does something for us, most of us feel compelled to reciprocate by doing something of around equal value in return.
When we invest time in someone, we unconsciously expect a return for the time we gave. If you add other things into the mix — favors, dinner dates, etc. — our level of investment becomes higher and the unconscious expectation for a return greater.
The less the person reciprocates, the more time we tend to invest trying to get the person to reciprocate. This makes us more invested and raises our unconscious expectations of some kind of return from that person.
So, when we can’t have that one person we want, we may tend to invest a lot trying to have him or her. The more we invest, and the less the person reciprocates, the more we want the person because we have invested a lot.
Annoyingly, investing too much time and energy in someone without the person wanting it will usually push the person away.
So, when you want someone whom you simply cannot have, the best thing is to relax, step back and not invest so much into that someone (no matter how difficult that may be).
by Rajeet Singh
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Rajeet’s passion; psychology. His motto: ‘We are but a product of our thoughts’. Graduating in Law & Psychology, he now runs an outsourcing startup (BlueportUK.com). He enjoys mixing cocktails and bombarding strangers with philosophical debate.
Photo: Raluca Marie Wolfski/Flickr