The Dreary Distress of Boredom

Boredom is easily avoided once we discover the inner processes that produce it

Yawn. Nothing interesting going on today. Day after day, the same old thing, going around in a daze, inwardly dead. Life used to be more fun. Why is the world so dull? Why am I bored so much of the time?

Hey, it’s natural enough to be bored when waiting two hours in a doctor’s office or at a garage getting your car repaired. It’s clinical or chronic boredom that we want to avoid. A whole range of painful symptoms—from drug addiction to compulsive gambling to poor performance at work and school—are associated with chronic boredom.

Some people believe that boredom is normal. In Boredom: A Lively History (Yale University Press, 2011) Prof. Peter Toohey concludes his book by writing that, “Boredom is a normal, useful, and incredibly common part of human experience. That many of us suffer it should be no cause for embarrassment. Boredom simply deserves respect for the, well, boring experience that it is.”

Toohey, a professor of classics, is wrong to say that boredom—a negative emotion akin to a toothache—is normal and useful. Boredom is a bummer, a form of unnecessary suffering, when, in its chronic form, it’s a significant part of one’s daily experience. Toohey’s book touches on superficial psychological ideas concerning boredom, but he doesn’t explore (or even mention) depth psychology where the remedy can be found. [Read more...]