Obsession: Why Do We Want People Who Don’t Want Us?

“Because what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?”― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

How come we always desire what we cannot have? What magnetic power draws us to the unknown? Why do we obsess over people who don’t want us?

Obsession eats away at you in ways you can’t imagine. It ultimately takes over your whole being. Everything around you becomes either dull and uninspiring or just a means to get closer to the object of your divine affection.

An unhealthy behavior that pins you down to a world of make-believe and fantasy.

Why do we develop this bad habit of wanting something we cannot have? Why don’t we want what we can have? The story is simple and as old as time: The Good One is right there, available and interested in you. But The Bad One is way more appealing, always on your mind, unavailable and completely unattainable.

Psychology says it goes the other way, the more they reject you, the more interested you become. It’s a vicious cycle you won’t escape anytime soon. It’s a phenomenon that stimulates the same parts of the brain associated with motivation, reward, cravings, and addiction.

Rejection is like an addiction, it draws you, even more, when you’re rejected by the very object of fascination.

The study conducted by Helen Fisher and her team revealed that people’s brains were more active when faced with the photo of the person who had rejected them than the picture of a neutral person.

Published in the “Journal of Neurophysiology“, the study came to the conclusion that people who find themselves obsessing about other people are, in fact, suffering from drug addiction. The drug being precisely the person rejecting us, leaving our love unrequited. It does not explain though why people react like this to romantic rejection or how we developed this inclination of wanting people we cannot have.

One answer could be linked to the perceived value of the other person we’re infatuated with. If they are not available for a relationship or they don’t want you, their perceived value goes up. From an evolutionary point of view, we aim to mate with the most valuable partner, so it does make sense we are much more interested in a person who’s really valuable to us or when their perceived value increases.

Another answer could be the fact that we indeed have relatively addictive personalities. If, on the one hand, after a break-up, we are addicted to the moments we shared, the time together, their company and everything in between, how come we are addicted to something that has never taken shape, a relationship that has never happened?

It can be assumed that we are addicted to thoughts of what could have happened and never will. Isn’t that some scary stuff? Living in a bubble of fantasy? No wonder we can’t get over our poignant obsession.

Once these thoughts stuck in your brain, getting turned down will only intensify them, leaving you to deal with obsession, which is a type of addiction, or at least an addiction to thoughts of a certain kind.

It’s very hard to change your thought patterns or to swap with other ‘good’ ones unlinked to your obsession. I guess the question ‘Why Do We Want People Who Don’t Want Us?’ remains unsettled only to give us massive headaches.