Sometimes it feels like you have to give up too much of yourself in order to be part of a group, with a friend, or in a romantic relationship, and sometimes being alone feels painfully isolating, or people will judge you as “anti-social.” When either happens, a gap develops between the expectations and wishes for what you imagine your life could be like, and the reality of your daily experience.
One modern form of these feelings has come to be called “fear of missing out,” or “FOMO.” FOMO implies, partially through all of the evidence on social media, that other people are having fun and you are not. The amount of evidence that other people are having fun can be overwhelming, because they remind you that life is not always satisfying, yet invite the notion that it could be.
The fantasy that you can have access to limitless amounts of energy and satisfying experiences, and the impulse to realize it is a powerful one. The opposite fantasy, that you are totally alone and can’t enjoy anything because you are a social outcast, is equally powerful. These fantasies represent extremes, and neither are true. These fantasies are tantalizing though, because they imply that the essential, yet difficult process of exploring yourself and your desires isn’t necessary to have a full satisfying unlimited life. Sadly, we all have limits and therapy can help you figure out how to live your life in a meaningful enjoyable way, even if it isn’t all you fantasize about.
Acting under the sway of FOMO can involve feeling obligated to say “yes” to any apparently social activity, in an attempt to truly never miss out. You try to be the one having the “satisfactory experience elsewhere,” and risk losing yourself and not being truly present with others. The search for satisfaction can feel like an obligation, with no foreseeable end. Sometimes people engage in self-destructive behavior in order to avoid FOMO, like texting while driving.
Alternatively, FOMO can evoke a sense of loneliness and alienation, and a feeling that there are too many potential things to do and choosing something is too hard. You withdraw from the social world, and end up missing out on everything, but do what you can to tolerate the feeling of not being a part of a community. Sometimes you feel like more of yourself when you’re alone, but it remains hard to live without the grounding that being part of a group offers. Sometimes things can get extreme, to the point where drug abuse, other forms of addiction (video games, shopping, gambling, sex), being an unwilling “urban hermit” feel like the only ways to cope.
Therapy fosters the ability to be yourself whether you are alone and with others, and an understanding of yourself that will allow you to be confident in the choices you make. With the help of a therapist, you can learn what you really want to do with your life, time, and relationships, and freely realize what you want with a sense of authenticity.
To work with Louis on FOMO therapy click here.