Remember that thing you missed out on, years ago, and how really awesome it was and what a bummer it is that you missed out on it? I suspect it wasn’t quite as sparkly as you remember.

We have a tendency to look at things in really weird ways. Some of them seem bizarrely contradictory. One of the ones in particular is something I call “Loss-Boosting.”

Loss-boosting is when you’ve lost something. It can be anything. It can be a toy, or a client deal, or a sexual partner, or a pass during a football game. Up until the moment you lost it, it was just an ordinary toy, a good client deal, a pleasant sexual partner, and a football game.

But something weird happens the instant you lose it.

The toy you lost becomes the toy that represented the innocence of your childhood that can never be recaptured1.

The client deal becomes a key client in a key market that was critical to your success in that region2.

The sexual partner becomes someone whose skill left you breathless, who tore the sheets in sweaty frenzied passion and who was the only person who ever truly opened your heart and mind as much as your body3.

The football game becomes the last big football game of your senior year, defining you and your sports career4.

Jinkies – it’s a wonder we ever get anywhere with all these horrible losses in our past!

I’ve seen a lot of loss-boosting in my time. Hell, I’ve done a lot of loss-boosting in my time5.

I don’t know why we do it, but I suspect it’s a defensive form of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. In this case, it’s grass we tasted. So, in order to maintain the illusion of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, we must keep telling ourselves tales of just how much greener that grass is – because we’ve tasted it. That adds veracity to our account – we can’t allow ourselves the internal luxury of being able to admit that we might be just subscribing to a greener-grass situation, because we’ve tasted that grass, therefore the greener part must be true.

I also think that this is a self-feeding and self-hardening cycle.

I think it’s self-feeding because the more of Life we encounter (that is to say, the more toys, the more sexual partners, the more business clients, and the more football games), the more we have to work to make that Lost Item still greener than all the grass we now have (because over our lives, we encounter a lot of grass, apparently).

For example, as our toys grow more sophisticated, that old toy we lost becomes even greater. It becomes a symbol of our youth after a while (and symbols are hard to beat). If we acquire a sexual partner that has some Mad Skilz, well, then that older partner we lost actually had Epic Skilz. As we acquire clients who pay better, that old client becomes a key regional client. And, as we continue playing football, that game becomes the one game we can’t ever redo.

That’s the cycle – no matter how much we encounter after that loss, it never ameliorates the loss – it just raises the bar and then automatically raises the Loss to above that bar.

I think this is self-hardening, too. Every time our current experiences raise the bar, then we spend extra effort raising our loss above that bar. After a brief time, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy on that loss. Therefore, that loss must be worth a lot.

Not really.

But try telling someone that the ex who dumped them thirty years ago wasn’t Their One True Love Who Could Light The Way To Salvation Using Only The Power Of Their Awesome Genitalia6 and see how far you get.

That belief has hardened into place.

This loss-boosting can really cause some mischief7.

I’ve seen people literally ruin huge swaths of their lives by loss-boosting. I’ve read of it, heard of it, and – alas – been prone to it as well.

But I try see past it, and I think being able to see past it is something that we all have to learn how to do on occasion. We have to, because otherwise, we’re doing our Present a disservice by constantly comparing it against a fantastical Past that we always reform as “better than anything in the Present by x much.”

That’s just insane.

The toy was just one of dozens of toys you had in your life. The sexual partner is just someone you were involved with, but aren’t anymore. The client is just one of the many clients that have come and gone. The football game was just a game.

Hm.

Easy to say, but hard to integrate. Hard to do.

I know, I’ve been trying piece-by-piece to dismantle as much of my loss-boosting as possible. Each one I find, it feels as if I uncover another half dozen.

But I know I’m on the right path because each time I stare myself in the mirror and acknowledge that these were ordinary things, I feel better.

I tell myself “It’s okay to just fondly remember a toy without feeling all the rest of this crap. It’s okay to fondly remember my ex without feeling all the rest of this crap. It’s okay to regret losing a client without going crazy about it. It’s okay to shake my head at missing that pass without letting it define me.”

We really need to start looking at perspectives like this, because I have a feeling that the more we try to acquire a better perspective, the more we’ll discover that everyone else around us – that the world around us – is actually composed of ordinary artifacts, ordinary people, and ordinary events. Sweet, wonderful, understandable, ordinary things. This makes the world less of a scary place.

I think once we realize this, once we try to curtail instances of loss-boosting and the mischief it can trigger, then we’ve taken a real genuine step toward accepting and even embracing the human condition.

Which is probably not a bad plan.


  1. And no amount of buying on eBay will help you – trust me.
  2. And woe to the competitor who stole that client, for they are truly a villain of epic proportions.
  3. And that’s why you’re thinking of calling, right, just to say hi. Yeah, I thought so…
  4. Tear tracks on your letterman’s jacket look terrible once you hit forty.
  5. I won’t bore you with that – you’ll just have to trust me when I say I’ve done a lot of it.
  6. You know who I’m talking about, right? Right?
  7. Like I need to tell you that, right?

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