You Want What You Can Lose

I’m a strong believer in the fact that people want most what they cannot have. I would be surprised to find anyone who would disagree with that or who hasn’t heard or thought about it before, so for that reason I’m going to skip the explanation of this concept.

There’s a side of this that I think gets overlooked though:

People also want what they can possibly lose. The higher the chance of losing something, the more we want to keep it.

Am I being too abstract? Let me give some examples that most of us can relate to.

When in a relationship, the degree in which one person wants the other tends to fluctuate. Sometimes you really want your spouse and other times not as strongly. This doesn’t mean you love them any less, it’s just a natural variance.

You’ll notice that the times you really want each other, though, is when there’s any sort of threat that can take them away. The prime example here is jealousy.

Ah, jealousy, the unique emotion that can tear people apart who love each other, or keep bad couples together for the wrong reasons.

Most people have caught on to this function of jealousy, and some even use it to their advantage. If a person feels their spouse isn’t paying enough attention to them, they might purposely flirt with someone else in front of them to make them jealous. Why start trouble? Because they’re creating a threat and the idea of them being snatched away by someone else makes their spouse want them more.

Sometimes people feel too comfortable in a relationship and see no chance of it ending because things are perfectly fine. This causes them to lose interest though because something that secure has very little chance of being taken away. What do they do to fix this problem? Without even realizing it, they will often start fights over petty issues or complain about things that would never be issues if bigger problems existed. Now the possibility of breaking up just increased and a threat has been posed. Starting to see the cycle?

When you watch a sporting event, it’s always more fun to watch your team narrowly win because if they’re so far ahead that they can’t lose, what’s the point of watching?

It’s been said that if people were immortal they wouldn’t enjoy life as much, if at all. This is because there’s no chance of losing life, and nothing can possibly pose a threat to it. This tends to be the key in the tragedy of most vampire stories. The immortal, who we would think would be happier than us, actually envy us for being able to die. Let’s lay off the science fiction though.

Ever have a bad dream where someone you care about dies? I’ll bet you woke up wanting to see them more than usual. The idea of their mortality is something you probably don’t normally think about on a regular basis, so when it enters your mind… well I think you get the idea.

You’ll also notice this happens with possessions. You may not be crazy about some old shirt that you never wear, but if someone suggests giving it to someone else, maybe as a hand-me-down, suddenly you really like it and want it for yourself.

This last example will serve as a segway into my next update:

When your spouse leaves on a trip somewhere for a few days, you miss them more than if you haven’t seen them for a week when they’re closer by. That’s because when they’re on a trip, you have no chance of seeing them, the option isn’t there. So your desire for them is much stronger than if you could see them whenever you want. Missing someone has its bad side (when the person is away), but it always feels so good to finally see them upon their return.

It’s important to have a healthy amount of time apart in a relationship – just enough to miss them a little bit. But I’ll elaborate on this subject next time.

I would just like to note that is this not ground-breaking, and I take no credit whatsoever for the ideas discussed. This is a simple explanation of an already discovered quality of human nature. I also strongly recommend watching “A Nice Place To Visit” which is a Twilight Zone episode written by Charles Beaumont. I can think of no better example of this subject than this.

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