Returning to losing situations and motivation

After my last post on why business owners go back to losing situations using an example I saw in the show Bar Rescue it got me thinking about the topic from a more holistic perspective. Why do people revert back to a seemingly bad situation after they have already freed themselves once?

  • Why do drug and alcohol abusers revert back to their old form after years of living clean?
  • Why do people return back to ex’s so frequently?
  • Why do people marry the same spouse more than one time?
  • Why do converts to a new religion that requires change revert back to their old ways after years of fellowship?
  • Why do people chase multiple get rich schemes even though previous opportunities have been fools gold?

These situations are unique but they all fit the criteria of returning to a seemingly undesirable state that an individual has already experienced before. What are some potential explanations for these behaviors? We could right the individuals off as less than intelligent or otherwise dismiss the question and move on but I would rather explore the situations try to explain the behavior.

Why do drug and alcohol abusers revert back to their old form after years of living clean?

To me this is the easiest one to explain. Substance abuse changes the body/brain and leaves it in an altered state so for hard drugs the individual may never be the same person again. A return to addiction is in a way the most normal of the situations I have listed because drugs effect dopamine levels and change the body as a result. I have no direct experience with this but individuals may no longer feel the ability for joy as they did in their pre drug abuse state so relapse due to stress or the desire to feel good again is the likely reason. This is one of the reasons I am actively preaching to my kids at a young age to never just try it although I am realistic that they will experiment with drinking.

Why do people return back to ex’s/marry same person again?

This one fascinates me and I did have some experience of returning to an ex in my younger days so I am not immune to the foolishness of this. I think a lot of this has to do with a cocktail of emotions such as the desire for comfort, laziness, and a heavy dose of romanticizing the good times while overlooking the bad. I would like to see a study done with detailed information about the reason/terms of the breakup since those would seem to be key factors to consider when analyzing this question.

Why do converts to a new religion that requires change revert back to their old ways after years of fellowship?

I have observed that people tend to make big religious changes around emotional milestone points in their life for example severe illnesses, experiencing a near death experience, or the death of a close loved one. We seek out deeper meaning at times of confusion and pain when we want the comfort that there is more to life than what we currently see and are experiencing. Making lifelong vows during these stressful situations but time erodes most painful experiences and after awhile the pain of the trigger is less powerful. Lack of willpower/keeping of vows would be another explanation but I think a lot of it has to do with the emotional state of the individual when they make the initial decision.

Why do people chase multiple get rich schemes even though previous opportunities have been fools gold?

In this situation I am most inclined to attribute laziness and gullibility of the individual. Everyone wants the benefits of being rich but few want to work the countless hours and weekends usually needed to make it happen. As a result they are like sheep to the slaughter for the get rich quick industry who make themselves rich at the expense of the lazy and gullible. I am not saying that educational programs are bad but only ones that make extravagant overboard promises that are nearly impossible to deliver.

If you know a situation to be bad for you do not go back for any reason. If you do except the same results as you experienced last time. For those of you who are of the Christian persuasion 2 Peter sums it up best

They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

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