Cursed With a Conscience

marvels and musings of a normal girl in a wacky world.

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The Allure of the Forbidden Fruit: Why we don’t get what we want.

So I’ve been having the most curious yearnings to watch a dodo bird hunt an extinct harelip sucker fish on a cold day in hell with pigs flying overhead. While riding a unicorn.

Huh? you say. Why ever would I crave such an absurd and outlandish thing? Well, that’s easy! Because it’s unattainable. It’s the fruit upon the uppermost branch of the tallest tree in the forbidden forest. And I want it. So why is it exactly that our minds work in this way? Why do we always seek the treacherous and sometimes toxic fruits, like Adam and Eve, instead of the ripe, low hanging fruit dangling right before our faces?

Because we are a warped, demented and masochistic people with an affinity for suffering and misery, and terrible taste in fruit….. Offered royal blue, we want mud brown. Filet mignon for dinner? Nope, we’ll take tuna helper. If the snaggletooth weirdo we’ve never looked twice at in our life told us to eat shit and die, we’d be smitten.

And this “grass is greener” mentality, which I hate with every fiber of my being in principle, but fall invariably captive to in practice, is what makes us seemingly magnetizing to all we do not want but repulsive to everything that we do.

it is on account of an impossibly annoying and uncanny sequence of failed conquests for things I desire that I’ve resorted to the desperate and admittedly melodramatic recourse of google searching a diagnosis for my grave condition. I embarked upon this quest to find a clear and satisfying answer to the haunting question of why I always want what the fuck I can’t have. Why sad, pathetic humans like myself become ensnared in the fruitless quest for the forbidden fruit -against our strongest sense and logic. Below are some surprisingly compelling theories my brief and half-witted research unearthed:

  1. Information gap theory- when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know, curiosity is born. Curiosity fuels the desire to take any action necessary to bridge the gap and find the way through the fog. This explains why we love to desire from afar (celebrity crushes and the guy that sits in the back of class that we are content to stare at and never talk to) and are attracted to mystery and unpredictability.
  2. Delayed gratification- the longer it takes to fulfill one’s desires, the more dopamine is produced. Dopamine is the “pleasure chemical” of the brain. So, getting something right away produces the minimal pleasure in our sick, twisted minds. What really tickles us is waiting endlessly for something with little to no assurance we will actually get it. Go figure.
  3. Principles of economics: Guess what? They apply as much to our hearts as our heads. Here are a few:
  4. Unavailability- When something is temporarily unavailable it makes it more enticing for consumers. It convinces them that this something, regardless of actual value, is worth waiting for, begging for, or seeking after at any expense.
  5. Scarcity- when something is considered finite or in short supply, it is coveted and desired by all merely because all cannot have it. It becomes a competition, or a race. It makes one unique and special to have something that others can’t obtain.
  6. Competition- we all want to win. If someone doesn’t want what we’re selling, or someone doesn’t want to sell what we’re buying, our mercantile mindset chalks it up to a big, epic, devestating #fail.
  7. “Partial Reinforcement”- if results of an action are unpredictable or inconsistent in producing rewards, people will try harder and more persistently because they never know which attempt, or how many it will take, until they get the reward they are seeking. According to studies of lab rats, who scientists have deemed similar in intelligence and behavior to human beings ( insulting for the human or the rat?) , repeat and predictable success breeds laziness. Who the hell wants that? Boring. I’d rather chase my tail!
  8. Unexpectedness- given two options that are unequal in value, people will have stronger reactions towards getting the result they don’t anticipate than getting the thing they actually want. In other words, the unexpected reward is the exciting one. Unpredictability is more satisfying than preference. I would much rather find an unexpected penny on the street than receive my bi-weekly paycheck (that contains at least five times that amount!) that arrives boringly and predictably. Wouldn’t you?
  9. Heightened attention: When something is forbidden or difficult to attain you pay more attention to it. You always wind up craving the one entrée they JUST took off the menu; that delicious meatloaf you’ve heard was terrible and don’t technically eat because your vegetarian. But this time you really wanted it! And this was the meatloaf that got away….
  10. Control- humans do not want to be told they cannot do or have something. Whether or not we really want the thing is irrelevant- what we really seek is the option of having it and the agency in getting it. So don’t ever tell me, I can’t learn to play the harmonica. Watch me.

So, Hallelujiah! I’ve found the delightful and theraputic answers to my nagging questions. Now that I understand that I’m neurologically wired and predestined to be thwarted in all attempts to get what I want, and will inherently seek things I don’t really want but my brain thinks I want because of nonsensical correlations between pleasure and unpredictable and inconsistent rewards, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted! Now I can be contentedly discontent, and I hope after reading this article you can to. Have a great day, everyone! And remember: all you have to do to get what you want is to stop wanting it. Now go do it!