The Great Gatsby Complex
I’ve always said you can learn more from certain novels about human nature than you can from some of the most celebrated self help books. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel The Great Gatsby serves to constantly remind me about the art of letting go.
In the novel the main character Jay Gatsby has one of the strongest cases of “oneitis” I’ve ever seen. He is full throttle into “the sickness” over an ex lover Daisy Buchanan. The two fall in love and date for awhile before circumstance prevents the two from continuing their love affair. Daisy goes on to marry someone else, and Gatsby spends the next five years building an empire to impress her with his new wealth. He also throws party after party in his mansion in hopes of her showing up without the realization that it was her old lover throwing the party.
The reason that I decided to write about this is because the other night I realized that I still suffer from what I call The Great Gatsby Complex.
The Great Gatsby Complex is an inward hope of meeting someone from your past that drives you to make decisions in your present life. It is the guy who is struggling through law school so that he can show up at his high school reunion and impress a girl he had a crush on ten years ago… it is the guy that is at the gym seven days a week building the perfect body in hope that he runs into an old flame and she’s blown away by his chiseled abs.
We all have those girls from our past that still haunt us. They are usually not ex girlfriends, but instead they are usually girls that we have unfinished business with… girls that “slipped away” or circumstance prevented things from going further.
For me their are three that pop into my head:
Jackie- the whore. Jackie was a girl I worked with a few years back. We clicked on many different levels… and we both insanely attracted to each other… but Jackie was “on the promiscuous side.” She fucked just about every guy I knew. And discussed the details with me. That was part of our friendship… helping each other get laid. We avoided the temptation of hooking up with each other for over a year… until one night we couldn’t take it anymore and dragged each other into a bathroom during a party and made out like our life depended on it. The chemistry was so unbelievably hot.. but there was one big problem. Jackie was a known slut.. and there was no way I could be caught dating her. So after that night we went back to being friends.. until we gradually disappeared from each other’s lives.
Jaime, the 17 year old. I met Jaime at her older sister’s birthday party. I had hooked up with her sister in the past and felt a little weird at the party because her sister was there with her boyfriend (who she was with when we had our fun) so to keep myself occupied I flirted with her Jaime. Later that night Jaime came back to a friends place and we kept talking. Soon I found myself standing on his porch telling her how cute she was… then we kissed. I tried to avoid her after (she wasn’t exactly street legal) but a week later she called me up and asked me to go down the shore with her and her friend. We got down the shore and rented a hotel… her friend quickly disappeared and left us alone in the room. Jaime was the most adorable girl I had ever seen and soon we were laying on the bed making out… she’s telling me how we’re going to get married… how much she likes me… and I’m enjoying it like I haven’t with any girl in a long time… I resist having sex with her for most of the night despite her constant begging.. finally I give in. Later I’m so confused over what I did that I never talk to her again.
Kryptonite, the soul mate. I’ve written about her before. She’s the friend that after five years of unbearable sexual tension we explode during a ski trip and spend a week in a hotel barely ever leaving the bed. We were both in relationships at the time with other people, and when the trip ends -so does our brief romance…and our friendship.
I mention these girls because they still haunt me. I don’t consider myself as having oneitis over any one of them… but I do find myself hoping that they’ll show up at the bar I’m at more often that I’d like to. I do have fantasies of running into one of them and instantly rekindling the old unfinished feelings.
What is so dangerous about The Great Gatsby Complex is that it can begin to control your present moment. I’ve found myself suggesting certain bars to my friends because of the slight chance one of these three might show up there. I’ve found myself constantly looking around hoping to spot one of them…
Holding onto the past like this ruins the opportunities that are presented to you in the present. Each of these three girls had a quality about them that separated them from the hundreds of other girls I was with during that time frame. I don’t deny that they hold a special place in my mind… but holding on the past in this way can prevent you from meeting new girls who may have similiar qualities.
I think that the reason its the girls that we have unfinished business with that haunt us the most is because we only have the memories of the intense attraction, chemistry, and connection. These feeling never got a chance to mature so they are still burning strong… unlike ex girlfriends who we went full circle with and our feeling had a chance to run their course leaving us with both good and bad memories.
How to Rid Your Self of The Great Gatsby Compex
I think the first step in ridding yourself of the complex is the acceptance of all things past for what they were. Any of the three girls I mentioned could easily have been the love of my life… but they weren’t. They were brief romances that ended prematurely. AND THATS ALL THEY WERE.
The second step of ridding yourself of the complex is the expression of gratitude. Each of these experiences made you the person you are today. Each of the three girls I mentioned added excitement and adventure to my life during the time I knew them. And I am thankful for that opportunity.
The third step of ridding yourself of the complex is the act of forgiveness. You have to forgive yourself for anything you did to contribute to ruining the romance. I know some of my actions back then weren’t stemming from my best self. I know I made mistakes that might have cost me a chance at a great love affair… but what is done is done. It is time to forgive yourself and move on.
The final step of ridding yourself of the complex is the expression of faith. Part of the reason we hold onto these ghosts from our past is because we don’t believe that we’ll meet anyone better. You have to know that you have all the qualities and characteristics to meet and attract an even more special girl. You have to have faith that she is out there… Once you develop a sense of faith that you’ve yet to meet your ideal girl… the chains from your past are released and you begin to grow excited for what you may find in your future.
If you are being held back by ghosts from your pasts I suggest following the four step plan to rid yourself of the complex.
About Bobby Rio I'm Bobby Rio, one of the founders of TSB. I tend to write about what is on my mind so you'll find a mix of self development, social dynamics and dating articles/experiences. For a collection of some of my favorite articles check them out.