Why do we always want what we cant have?
We Always Want What We Can't Get by Nelson is a song that perfectly sums up our psychology of the things we want. As a child, when you were told you couldnt have a toy, it just led to you wanting it even more. As a teen, when you were told you couldnt buy that phone you wanted, your desire for it increases. Why does this happen? Why does our desire for things increase when they are unattainable? This phenomenon also occurs in human relationships. When you know someone is in a relationship, you somehow find yourself falling even harder. In The Crucible, we can see this is evident in the way Abigail wants John Proctor. You can say she falls even harder when it is apparent he wants nothing to do with her anymore. Her self-esteem is desperate to feel satisfied, and the craving to prove that she is worthy intensifies this feeling towards him.
There are no real psychological proofs in why we have this feeling, but there have been many theories, which makes sense to me since its relatable to me. When something is hard to get, we start to pay more attention to it. Our focus is constantly on the craving of this thing. For example, when you are on a diet, you can sometimes become too hung up on what you cannot eat. This heightened attention to the foods you cannot eat makes it appear that the food is really important, and your own conscience convinces you to eat those forbidden foods.
We human beings value the things that are scarce and hard to find. This is obvious in the jewellery market. Diamonds are rare so therefore have an extremely high price for the item, even though it has no real benefit to us as people. Along with the actual cost of the item, humans also have a way of thinking known as perceived scarcity. As more and more people want something, you have an inner desire to have it, to make yourself appear superior to all the others who failed to acquire it. This is more commonly shown in human interactions. It explains why people fall for the individuals that have many admirers. They want to feel good about themselves by beating all the others and successfully have a relationship with that person. Their urge is not stemmed from the guy/girl that they like, rather it is fuelled by the others fighting for the same.
People these days also naturally hate being told what we can or cant have. The feeling of not wanting to follow others instructions is greater when they seem unfair or arbitrary. So whenever someone tells you, you cannot have it, our inner child throws a tantrum and is desperate to prove him or her wrong. This fuels our motivation to obtain that thing we were told we couldnt have.
So why do I think we always want the things that we cant get or dont have now? I dont feel the desirability everyone else describes, so I dont exactly have a strong opinion on it. Maybe I give up too easily, but whenever I realise want something that is unobtainable, I accept my fate. My desirability onto that certain thing just disappears as I realise you have to be content with what you have, rather than chasing something impossible or very unlikely. However, if it is something where there is a chance, my urge to obtain or achieve it motivates myself to a new level and I will do anything it takes. This does work in your favour in some aspects in life, for example pursuing a very high paying job, which has almost impossible requirements. If you feel the common want for the things we cant have, it will motivate and push you to the extremes of your ability to achieve, bringing a possibility of accomplish your goal. However, this inexplicable instinct can go too far and it overrules our morals, which can hurt others and yourself.
If you prefer a science explanation like I do, a study apparently claims that the urge to for the unattainable is found within us, literally, in our DNA. George Loewenstein is an American Educator and he came up with the interesting theory of Information-Gap Theory. It states that when we feel a gap between what we know and what we want to know, our natural curiosity takes over and we feel an urge to fill in that gap. I can personally say this feeling has occurred in me many times in the past and has led me to do things unexpectedly.
Another study concluded that dopamine, the chemical in our brain that makes us feel pleasure grows until you finally fulfil the desire. Everyone would agree on this point. When eating a meal, you will always save the best part for last as this allows your levels of dopamine to grow, meaning youll gain maximum pleasure from it! This also relates to relationships with others. The reason why woman play hard to get, is to increase the levels of dopamine in the guys. The experience will ultimately be more pleasurable as time passes.
The want for something we cannot have teaches us the valuable life lesson of being content with what we have. When I desire something, I forget how fortunate I am as we overlook what we already have! This contentment can mean the difference between being happy and depression. However, in certain circumstances that actually have major benefits, this want for what we cant have serves as a driving force behind our actions.
Emily Kim (Edited By Daniel Zhang)