Saturday, 24 April 2010

Why We Gamble

I was reading an interesting article about the “Real Reasons You Gamble” by Dr Maurice Farber from the Department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut.

In his opinion, there are six vital factors.

In my opinion, some of his opinions are a little out there, but here they are:

1) To relieve boredom. Many people feel desperately bored and empty. Gambling offers excitement, an antidote to boredom. Playing the game makes the hours go by like minutes.

2) The challenge of a battle. To many, gambling is a “war,” a battle of wits between the gambler and his opponent or “the system”. While gambling, we can attack, conquer or retreat without the deadly effects of real battle. Money adds interest to the battle. If the stakes are not too high, no one is really hurt. Thus, gambling can be a way of having your cake and eating it, too.

3) You can dream a little. Gambling is often related to the secret wish of many of us that something wonderful will happen, solving all our problems. Our ship will come in. Gambling small stakes for large winnings is a manifestation of the wishful day-dream aspect of gambling. It may explain why so many sweepstakes tickets are sold and why there is so much long-shot betting. Undoubtedly, there are people who never really expect to win, who know that the odds are heavily against them, but gamble only so they can dream luxurious dreams.

4) The feeling of power. The cravings people bring to gambling sometimes involve an unconscious or conscious magical belief that they are all powerful and cannot lose. They believe the horse they bet on is sure to win, the speculative stocks they buy sure to go up. This is a complicated emotional side of gambling and even may be related to deep unconscious sexual feelings. Perhaps to the extreme gambler, winning is something akin to sexual experience; to this gambler, losing becomes associated with sexual punishment.

5) The “family enemy” explanation. To some gamblers, the opponents stand for family members against whom the gambler feels hostility. For instance, the opponent may symbolize the gambler’s father, who for various reasons may be resented by the gambler. Or the opponent may be seen as the brother who the gambler believes was favoured by his parents. Thus the gambler seeks to “defeat” family members against whom he has harboured ill feeling since childhood.

6) The desire to lose. Perhaps the most curious paradox about gambling is that some gamblers really have an unconscious desire to lose. These gamblers seem so controlled by hidden guilt (which may arise from childhood experiences) that they actually play to lose as a means of relieving their guilt. People who persistently bet on very long odds often are of this type. They may protest long and loud about losing, but unconsciously they are deeply satisfied.
As a trader rather than a gambler, I’m rather pleased that few of the factors apply to me. The first three I can identify with a little. I do find trading and investing a challenge, but an intellectual challenge rather than anything resembling a “war”. Trading is exciting, but without it I certainly don’t feel “desperately bored and empty”. Do I dream a little? Perhaps occasionally. Certainly last weekend when I backed at 100-1 to win £129,000 the thought did cross my mind as to what I might do with it, but I don’t usually play for life-changing amounts.

To the last three factors he lists, this is where he lost me a little. While it does sometimes seem that I can’t do a thing wrong, there are other times when I can’t seem to do a thing right. It’s all part of the game, and nothing whatsoever to do with sexual feelings. The “family enemy” explanation? I’m not buying it. My opponents are other exchange users, not my parents or siblings.

As for the desire to lose, the people I know who fit this description are more attention seekers than sufferers of some hidden guilt, or at least I thought they were. Reminds me of a childhood friend who at around age sixteen spread a story around that he had discovered a note in his father’s desk, revealing that he (the son) only had a year or two left to live. I believe the term pity-f**k came into existence around this time, just for him. When I saw him in the pub last Xmas, he looked remarkably well for someone who should have died nearly 40 years ago. It just dawned on me! My childhood feelings of envy are being played out on the exchanges with my hostility directed at him!

1 comment:

uk bingo said...

Great! I've come to realize some deeper thoughts and probably my own hidden reasons on betting that I didn't really know, until after reading this.

point one - the feeling of power. it did hit me straight in the gut, not realizing that i did enjoy gambling because of the feeling it's feeding me when I have the upper hand.

point two - the challenge of a battle. this reason keeps me on playing more, and i do think i know this creeping inside me subconsciously.

point three - to dream a little. it usually comes in my mind (what if I win this amount blah blah.. what would I do with my winnings?)

thanks for sharing these. very well explained! i find your blog entries very helpful. you really are good at this stuff. anyway, thanks again. keep it up!