Why We Want What We Can’t Have

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So, you’ve heard the saying: “It’s all about the chase.” The excitement of the unknown, the human nature of desire, the feeling of finally getting the person you’ve been pursuing. But what happens when the race stops, and this time … you lose.

In life, it’s natural to compete. I mean, who doesn’t love a challenge? When things come easy to us, it’s not always fun. If someone were to hand you a cookie every time you asked for it, the value of the cookie would eventually fade. However, if you had to work for the cookie each time to receive it, you’d feel more deserving of the cookie, like you truly earned it. Now, swap the cookie with a person of interest. It’s a lot more complicated, right? But what’s powering this drive: Is it love? Or just the thrill?

It all comes down to desire. Although known more as a positive term, if our desire isn’t fulfilled, it can become destructive. In Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith Grey says, “Desire leaves us heartbroken, it wears us out. Desire can wreck your life.”


The term, “breadcrumbing” is when you’re given lots of attention from someone, and they seem super interested. Then, after a bit of time, the person goes radio silent, essentially leaving you like a trail of breadcrumbs. While some would be outraged by this, most yearn for this attention again. When a person appears “too busy” or “too good” for you, your ego just can’t take it. People are drawn to the unknown, the reward of getting the person you want, even if they don’t want you back.

The “Scarcity Effect”

The “scarcity effect” in psychology happens when a person sees something that they view as desirable or of “high-value” and their mind becomes attached to its “rarity.” They end up wanting the person more than something that’s recognized as abundant. In the same breath, they are more aware of things that we lack. So, when a person of your interest gives you this scarce energy, you’re immediately drawn.

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Fulfilling a Fantasy

People tend to fall in love with the idea of a person, or in other terms, the fantasy of them. They become so obsessed with the person they’ve created in their head, and they can lose sight of their actual attributes. Since they’re so blinded by this fantasy that’s been fabricated, they excuse their faults and become deluded by their unfulfilling actions. Their mind can play tricks on them, and falling in love with wasted potential never ends well.

The “Nice” Person

Maybe you’ve met the person that would go above and beyond for you. They don’t give any mixed signals, consider your feelings and make it clear they are interested in you. Yet, you aren’t satisfied. From the outside looking in, it appears foolish to pursue someone that doesn’t want you, when in reality the perfect person is standing right before your eyes. The human mind can’t help but fall for the illicit attention instead.


For most, control is everything. If someone tells you that you can’t have something, you may force a smile, but under that smile is looming irritation. Hearing the word “no” makes you want to change the circumstance to how you’d like it to be, in order to switch gears and gain back that control you lost.

Low Self-Esteem

Unfortunately, “the chase” can be tied to low self-esteem issues. You may feel that if you obtain this “high-valued” person, it validates that you’re worthy. The more this person appears distant, the more you foster this apprehension that you’re not good enough for them and itch for any sort of attention. It’s difficult for people to swallow their pride and accept that someone might not be the person for them. But hey, a bruised ego is better than a broken heart.

Do you love the chase? Let us know how you feel by Tweeting us @VALLEYmag!



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