Hidden Goals and Illness

After I shared earlier this week about hidden goals, a lot of news came out about more people getting infected with the coronavirus. This includes people who deliberately went against sensible health guidelines, especially regarding mask wearing

From a cause-and-effect perspective, we could say that the virus eventually caught up with them, and of course their risky behaviors significantly increased their chances of getting infected.

But from a hidden goals perspective, we can also say that when people express such behaviors, they’re also expressing the hidden goal of getting infected. In other words, not wearing a mask isn’t just an expression of denial or bravado. Not wearing a mask expresses an elevated intention to invite infection. The hidden goal is to get sick.

Why would someone – or some part of a person’s psyche – want to get infected?

There could be lots of reasons. What are the benefits of getting infected? These are numerous.

First, you get immediate access to lots of downtime in a socially acceptable way. You’re expected to go into isolation and rest more.

Suppose that I announced that I had the virus. Wouldn’t that immediately change what you expected of me in the coming weeks? If I put myself into such a stressful or obligatory situation that getting sick could provide a much needed break, that could increase my chances of engaging in risky behaviors, such as not exercising or not eating well.

How often have you gotten sick when you were stressed, but you could also look back and see that you didn’t take very good care of yourself during those times either? Did you eat more iffy foods or slack off on good self-care practices? If so, you could say that you were courting illness as a way of giving yourself a break.

If you’re a very busy person and say you just want two weeks off for the sake of taking two weeks off, how will your social circle respond to that? Will anyone give you flak for it? How would they respond if you needed a few weeks off due to a serious or life-threatening illness?

If you get sick, the time is yours, and people are normally glad to let you off the hook regarding any expectations. They just expect you to focus on recovery.

Trump’s situation could also align well with hidden goals. He’s heading for an election that he’s likely to lose. He had a terrible debate performance this past week and has two more debates coming up (with the expectation of tighter rules), so there’s little or no upside and lots of downside if he does them. His long-term financial lies have been exposed publicly by the New York Times. He’s facing huge debt payments coming due, and he’s dealing with a major audit from this IRS that could cost him $100 million or so. More ex-insiders are turning against him. He and his family members may be looking at some real jail time too. Suffice it to say that his world is collapsing, and he doesn’t have many good options going forward.

His previous approach included trying to disrupt the election, setting the stage for disputing the results and throwing the process into chaos. That creates a big mess, but it probably wouldn’t work well enough to actually solve his problems, and this is generating an even bigger backlash against him.

By some measures it may seem like this would be the worst time for him to get sick – with just a month to go until the election. At a bare minimum, he has to self-isolate for at least 10 days, which is 1/3 of the time he has left. And that’s if things go well and he recovers quickly, which seems iffy since he just spent last night in the hospital.

But from the perspective of hidden goals, this is actually a very good time for him to get sick. As odd as it may seem, getting sick provides more options during this time.

He’s losing anyway. The next two debates aren’t going to go well for him, especially if they turn off his mic while Biden is speaking. He’s unlikely to turn things around in the next 30 days. There isn’t much hope for him to be found in those 30 days if he stays healthy. Even if he does his absolute best, it won’t likely make enough of a difference.

But getting sick – at a minimum – gives him access to extra outs and reframes. I’m not sure which of those would appeal to him, and some depend on how sick he gets, but here are a few to consider.

One aspect is that he gets to blame the virus if he loses – and anyone and anything he can associate with it. Moreover, people’s expectations of his performance are greatly lowered. So he can lose the election without losing so much of his social support. His supporters get to blame the virus too, and he surely knows this.

Another angle is that if he recovers quickly, he can say that the virus isn’t such a big deal and that people are blowing it out of proportion. Or he could claim that he’s strong enough to beat it quickly. And then if he loses the election, he can still blame the virus (and all of its associations) for its bad timing during the final month before the election. But given his hospitalization, I think this angle regarding a speedy recovery is becoming less accessible.

Another angle is that if he gets really sick, he can try to make a case for postponing the election. It fits with his attempts to sabotage the election and gives him even more options along those lines.

There’s also the angle of the virus being potentially fatal. That too is a potential hidden goal – the ultimate escape from all of life’s problems and challenges. Just let everything go and be done with it.

These are just conjectures since we can’t really know what another person’s hidden goals may be. I share this for the purpose of encouraging you to look at your own hidden goals – the goals that can be gleaned from your actual behaviors. So don’t see hidden goals as some absolute truth you’re trying to discover about yourself (or about other people). Rather see this as a tool that you can use to better understand your behavior and where you may be heading, so you can make more conscious choices.

If you play fast and loose with intelligent health precautions these days, consider the potential hidden goal that you may be trying to get sick. Then ask why you might want to do that. Do you see any potential benefits to a period of illness?

Illness can provide many benefits. It’s a period of rest. People’s expectations are immediately lowered, so it can make life easier, especially socially. You may be treated with more caring and compassion. Many of your problems will be put on pause – and some may even be improved or solved by your illness, such as interpersonal problems. An illness can remind you to appreciate good health and how precious it is, so you feel extra good when you recover.

Have you ever gotten sick in the past and found afterwards that it wasn’t such a bad thing? The experience may not be so great, but when you look at the full package, it’s not necessarily all bad.

The lesson of hidden goals with respect to illness is this: Watch out for when getting sick might actually give you some nice benefits or more options – especially when you see your behavior sliding in the direction of courting illness, like Trump’s behavior has been for months. That’s a good time to acknowledge the hidden goal and give it some conscious expression instead. You don’t have to court illness to get those benefits. You can create those benefits in other ways.

If you suspect that based on your behaviors, you may be courting illness, consider that you’re actually dealing with a social problem. If you lived alone on an island, you wouldn’t need to get sick just to earn a break from people’s expectations. So the warning signs of courting illness can point towards the need to invest in better management of social boundaries and expectations and win-win relationships.

You can also see this as a lifestyle problem. If illness starts to look better than wellness, at least to give you access to a short period of rest, that signals that your lifestyle is out of balance and that it would be wise to incorporate more rest. You can claim a lifestyle that includes sufficient time for rest and play. Maintain a lifestyle that provides an accessible pathway to the benefits of illness without actually having to get sick.