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The need to: Repeat


Explanations > Needs > Repeat

Basic purpose | Common repetition | Dysfunctional repetition | So what?


A curious need that we have is the need to repeat things.

Basic purpose

A curious question is about repetition is in the evolutionary benefit. At the very least, there is benefit in the learning, where repetition helps embed patterns into the mind.

The brain generally like learning, so rewards us for repeating by making us feel good. Repetition makes feel comfortable, reassured and especially good when it recalls the 'aha' of learning.

Common repetition

Mindless pleasures

There is pleasure in repetition that is not necessarily dysfunctional but gives common pleasure. Music and repetitive movement, combined in dancing is perhaps the most common form of this.

Repetition in buying

When buying, people often like to go through several loops, before making the final decision. The repetition is like hammering home a nail -- it has to be done several times until the end point is reached. Note that timing is also important in this and that a due reflective period between repetitions may (or may not) be needed.

Dysfunctional repetition

Sigmund Freud noticed the need to repeat and also that it was at the root of many dysfunctional conditions. Whilst repetition is

Stuck in patterns

Repetition is a common principle when something does not work. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, as the saying goes. In fact when something does not work it often takes quite a few repetitions before we give up and try something else.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

In OCD, people compulsively repeat patterns, most commonly checking, cleaning, tidying, counting or collecting. Sufferers know that they have the condition, but feel very uncomfortable until they fall into the repetition.

The internal conversation typically goes something like 'If I don't do X then something bad will happen'. The 'something' may be explicit or vague, but the feeling of impending danger is not. Suppression of the action only makes the feeling even stronger.


Whilst most of us (thankfully) don't have OCD, we still repeat patterns of behavior in varyingly harmful games that range from alcoholism and 'Poor me' seeking of parental succour to the Drama Triangle.

So what?

In selling and persuasion, repeat things, but only until you get the sale.

In therapy, find the root of compulsive repetitions and avoid being drawn into the game!

See also

Games, Repetition principle, Using Repetition, Repetition (fallacy), Figures of speech: Repetition

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