Why Mick Jagger Can’t Get No Satisfaction

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Since 1965 we’ve heard Mick and the Rolling Stones wailing about their inability to get a sense of satisfaction. Could it be that Mick is making a mistake—I mean, in addition to slaughtering the English language?

Always remember this: You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need cannot satisfy you.

This axiom goes a long way toward explaining human foibles. We can become fixated on behaviors that have no real capacity for meeting our very needs. While they may entertain, distract or promise fulfillment, if our pursuits don’t address and fill our needs we will be left with a sense of longing and emptiness.

Many years ago I shared an office with a colleague who was diabetic, and who filled the waiting room candy jar with beautiful, brightly colored hard candies with no sugar. I think I ate about seven of them in total, and was intrigued by my compulsion to work those hard little disks in my mouth until I got the flavor I expected. But no amount of effort or saliva ever brought it about. Yet I craved those silly, deceptive little candies, especially when I was hungry or thirsty.

They often served as effective object lessons, as I watched clients do the same, sometimes popping two in at a time and valiantly working them in with the expectation that they would perform as expected.

It is easy to see in some facets of life. You can’t drink enough Mountain Dew when you are dehydrated on a long hike, or play enough video games to take away the anxiety of not getting started on that big project that is due tomorrow morning. But some compulsive behaviors are a bit more subtle.

A man can easily get caught up in working long hours away from home, intent on creating an income that will support and sustain his family and bring them happiness. Yet he cannot work enough hours or create enough income to bring him close to those he loves. He may respond to his wife’s complaints with, “I’m doing it for us!”, but it doesn’t replace his direct involvement in the family.

A woman may become consumed with improving the home because “it just doesn’t feel right”. But no paint, polish or fluffy pillows will fill the gap left by an absence of laughter and heart-felt connections in that home.

I once heard a pornography treatment professional addressing a large congregation. He observed that his male clients report that they are more prone to look at sexual images when they are lonely and feeling unworthy or unwanted. Of course, that very behavior hurts those they love, or those they hope would love them, leaving them even more empty and alone. Women often turn to romance novels or movies, hoping to vicariously fill the gaps in their own hearts. This serves about the same purpose; while it temporarily distracts and creates intense emotions, it does nothing to meet their real needs, and so can never satisfy them.

And as we imagine or think that something SHOULD satisfy us, we naturally become intent on working that “solution” until it works for us. Like sucking that sugar free candy until it tastes sweet or nursing a soda until it quenches our intense thirst on a long hike, the unsuccessful effort compels us to do more of that thing that never worked in the first place.

If you catch yourself in a behavior pattern that doesn’t seem to be working, or if you notice that you feel compelled to engage in a particular behavior, step back for a moment—take a deep breath and consider that perhaps this is one of those things that may not be addressing a genuine need.

Maybe after 50 years even Mick and the boys will finally understand that they can never get enough of what they don’t need, because what they don’t need cannot satisfy them.


About the Author:

Michael Williams is a licensed psychotherapist, a Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years' experience. A specialist in quickly improving important relationships, he is also an expert in helping clients to quickly overcome problems with anxious, depressed or irritable moods.

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