Health and wellbeing

Miswanting

Miswanting refers to the fact that people sometimes make mistakes about how much they will like something in the future. This concept could also be interpreted to mean that people often mispredict the duration of their good and bad feelings. To want something is to predict that when we get it, we will feel good and moreover, the better we think something will make us feel, the more we want it. 

There are several reasons why people mispredict how they will feel about future events and one of the reasons is focalism – we focus too heavily on a single good or bad event when considering how that event will make us feel about our lives and we forget to include all the other complicated factors that will affect our experience and this is exacerbated by the fact that we are unaware of the unconscious phenomena of habituation or hedonic adaptation which is our innate capacity to get used to things. 

When we are not mindful, we can find ourselves caught up in a harmful cycle of wanting, achieving our desires and then failing to be happier in a meaningful or long lasting way and this is called the hedonic treadmill. The more heightened our emotional state becomes, the worse we are at predicting the future and accurately remembering the past, keeping us trapped in a cycle of suffering. 

Another important factor is that our wanting and not wanting is often based on indiscriminate reference points as our brains tend to use what we are exposed to most often as points of self-comparison rather than mindfully choosing appropriate examples and models. For example, if we are engrossed in social media, the way by which we measure our experiences will be skewed. This is reflected by the research that tells us that many people believe others are happier, richer and have more friends than they actually are or have.   

Author: Anish Kalyana