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Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Catch-and-Release Mentality Just Leaves Scars

There are two expressions that I think everyone in the western world has heard numerous times. The first is, "You always want what you can't have," and the second is, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." In fact there's a great Cinderella song that takes it's title from that phrase. The phrases are like bad cliches, but there's so much truth to them, for most people, that they just won't go away. I see things a little bit differently, however.

In my mind there's a great deal of immaturity to those thought processes. If you truly can't have something, then you need to let it go and move on. If you can have it, then get off your butt and go get it. Far too many people waste their time daydreaming about things that will never happen. We've all heard the statistics about how much more likely we are to get hit by lightning than we are to win big in the lottery, but for some reason the lottery is still a big revenue generator for the states and provinces that have them.

People gamble in other ways, too, because they dream of hitting it big, and usually end up losing everything they own in their foolishness. I've watched my own mother lose tens of thousands of dollars on VLTs (video lottery terminals). I couldn't understand it, and never will. They say gambling is an addiction. Well, then, she obviously needed some serious therapy that she never bothered to get. As far as I'm concerned, if she wasn't willing to go get help, she can suffer the consequences.

I'm not the co-dependent type, as you might have guessed, and I'm not an enabler, either. You get help or I walk away from your problems. I have enough of my own, and I can't afford to let someone else's addiction mess up my life. I've watched countless people throw away their lives on addictions, and if I had allowed myself to sink with even one of them, I wouldn't be here today.

Wanting what you can't have applies to relationships almost constantly, too. It's the reason people cheat, and the reason people play mind games. They don't necessarily know that's what they're doing, but it is. People get intrigued by greener grass, when it comes to the cheating thing, and they get intrigued by a mystery and a challenge when it comes to trying to latch onto a partner. Maybe we're built that way naturally, but I don't personally think it's an excuse to continue behaving like that. Eventually we all have to grow up and learn to value things for their real worth, not their perceived worth.

This is where not knowing what you have comes into play. I learned a long time ago to value what was already in my life. It may be because I lost eleven people in three years. It wasn't an easy time in my life. It seemed like everyone I knew was dying, and the majority of those people were really young. A few, like my grandfather and great-aunt, were at the age where it isn't so unexpected, but most were in their early twenties. One shot himself, another was in a trucking accident, another had a drowning accident, and one had a disease that killed him. That's not a complete list, but it gives you an idea what I was going through at the time.

It was at this point that I learned to value my time. I realized it was all I had. It didn't matter what kind of money or material possessions I had, my time was the only thing that was important. I learned to respect it, and I was highly insulted when others did not. The fact is, we've only got one life, and when someone wastes your time they waste a portion of your actual life. So, my patience (never being a virtue of mine) was in very short supply from this point in my life. I hated living in limbo on anything, and I wanted everything to happen right away. Of course, that's not how life works, so I had to learn patience, which was only effective up to a certain point. No matter what it is in life, there's comes a point when I say that enough's enough and I'm done with waiting. There's that whole giving up or going after something mentality. As far as I'm concerned, those are the only two choices in life. Things do take time to progress naturally, but if you're not helping them along you obviously don't care enough about it in the first place, and it doesn't matter what it is. I had to take that stance with my writing, in fact. I either had to get moving on it, or let the dream go.

To this day I see many fully-grown adults fall into the traps of those two cliches. It drives me batty, but then a lot of things do. We're not children. We can't always get what we want. If we can't have it, we need to let it go. However, if it was worth wanting it in the first place, then throwing it away once you have it is very much like catch-and-release fishing. All that work to catch a fish, only to go hungry because you throw it back. Of course, we can equate this to toys and people quite easily. Admittedly, sometimes what we suddenly have isn't what we thought it would be, so we're no longer interested because that wasn't what we really wanted in the first place. In that case, we need to take a much closer look at what we're really looking for, whether it's in relationships or toys or fish.

If, on the other hand, we're no longer interested simply because we have the object of our desire, there's something seriously wrong in our psychological make-up. Having a 'chase' mentality in everyday life will get you nowhere fast. Nothing will ever be good enough for people who are only interested in something when it presents a challenge to them. They're incapable of taking pleasure in the simple things that life has to offer. They're not satisfied to sit still and enjoy the fruits of their labours, and need to go after the next big thing. Many successful business people are like that. They make lots of money, perhaps, but never settle enough to enjoy it. They're in it for the games.

When it comes to relationships, though, I think the mistake may lie in not appreciate the challenges that are actually there. We get picky about our challenges. We're not interested in the challenge of working out problems, or trying to get to know someone as well as possible. We're only interested in 'getting' someone, and don't progress beyond that point. Thankfully I grew out of that a long time ago. I honestly learned to be grateful I had people in my life.

Despite the fact that my last marriage was a failure, as were the other two, it wasn't a failure because I lost interest. It was a failure because the relationship was destructive to both myself and my ex. There was never any chance of the two of us having a successful marriage, and the failure was in not allowing myself to accept that before we chose to make it legal. He was something I really couldn't have, if I ever wanted to be happy. Strangely, perhaps, we became good friends, but we could never have been good partners. We were never friends while we were together as a couple either. Things were too combative and too competitive for that, and we were both looking out for our own needs, feeling as though the other person was trying to take something away from us. We weren't a team, and we didn't have each other's backs, as the expression goes. We developed more of that - and began to look out for each other a bit better - once we became friends, but by then the marital relationship had completely disintegrated.

Having been single again for more than five years, I've had a long time to analyze everything that went wrong in my own relationships, along with what I see going wrong everywhere else. I didn't run right out and find a new man. I filled the void in my heart and my life and turned myself into a whole person, so that I didn't need a relationship to make me happy. I chose to learn from my mistakes, but many people don't, and so I see far too many who perform the catch-and-release routine over and over. There are theories about people being addicted to the rush of feel-good hormones that comes from being infatuated, and possibly they have some merit. However, like any addiction, therapy is something to look into if that's what the problem is.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but what I can tell you is this; when you have self-esteem and self-knowledge, the catch-and-release thing gets old really fast. It's a head game, whether it's intentional or not. Personally, I have zero interest in anyone who has no interest in me - nothing deadens the libido or emotional attachment for me quite like someone who couldn't care less if I was with them. While that may spike their interest in me again, my interest doesn't fluctuate quite so easily. Once it's gone, it's gone, so it no longer matters to me what their interest level is.

Generally speaking, however, I see far too many who fall for the routines and patterns. Far too many people have a need for drama, too, and I can't stand it. I get enough drama in my professional life just writing about somewhat controversial topics. I sure as hell don't want it in my personal life, and I don't understand those that do. (I will never be a fan of Jerry Springer, obviously.) I've known people who always fell for the ones that were married (and still with their respective spouses). One friend always fell for her doctors and dentists, who of course were way of limits just for the sake of professional standards, on top of the fact that they were always married. She ended up resorting to stalking behaviour, and it was of the more dangerous variety from what I could see. I told her flat-out, numerous times, that what she was doing was illegal, it was wrong, and she needed help. I also told her that if she didn't get help, she wouldn't be hearing from me in the future. I haven't talked to her in years.

I've had male friends that catted around a lot, too, despite the fact that what they were really looking for was a relationship. They just didn't want anyone to know that they were that vulnerable and 'needy' as they seemed to see it. So they acted like players, which had the effect of distancing women who might have been interested. They were 'fronting' as their ego seemed to demand, and truly there isn't anything more painfully obvious than a false ego trip to a mature person. We all know what it looks like when people do this. It happens during mid-life crises. It happens when people are at their lowest and most depressed. They try to inflate their own self-esteem by looking good to others, and it comes across as patently obvious fakery.

People that are evolved and mature no longer feel the need to go after what they can't have, and they cherish what they do have. When we find ourselves unable to do that, it means we have some work to do. Maturity requires that we be honest with ourselves and others, no matter how difficult it might be, rather than playing silly games. It's not a good feeling to be hooked over and over again, only to be let go because you're no longer interesting. It's not good for the poor fish who ends up with nothing but holes in his face, and it's not good for the person doing the fishing who ends up with nothing for dinner.