In Debbie Weiss’ thoughtfully honest essay on her own experience with polyamory, she concluded that: “I knew that when you find love, you jump in, almost involuntarily. You don’t sit on the edge negotiating how to keep your options open.”
I don’t propose to defend or critique polyamory, but I was struck by how Ms Weiss essentially experienced polyamory as another expression of the very modern malady known as fear of missing out.
Again and again, we see examples of this syndrome all around us – not committing to plans because we want to keep our options open in case something ‘better’ comes along. Of course, in this reasoning, something better is always just around the corner, unknown, enticing, promising, just within reach if we only keep ourselves open so we can put ourselves in its trajectory.
In my work with clients, I sometimes hear situations where this fear of missing out is couched in extremely sensible, practical, almost wise, terms. I think it is important to consider the individual circumstances that give rise to this kind of approach to matters, and agree that in many cases, weighing options and being thoughtful can often be the best way forward. However, the motivation behind such behaviours and thought patterns, is often the key to helping clients understand whether they are truly being present and making choices based on their awareness of self, or if they are in thrall of FOMO, which is often an expression of insecurity and anxiety.
Being able to discern this determines the result of the decision that is ultimately made. If one is acting congruently, a choice to postpone a definitive decision will be experienced as being right and true to self. If it is driven by FOMO, however, it simply leads to a continued sense of dissatisfaction, anxiety and the need to chase that ever-elusive ‘right’ decision. This can be experienced as a life-limiting pattern of thought and behaviour that engenders a fair amount of misery and inertia.
To paraphrase Ms Weiss, when you find yourself, you learn to trust who you are without doubt and fear – you don’t waste your time negotiating how to keep yourself open to considering confusing and ultimately pointless options.