How Can Boredom Can Be Good For You? (Part 2)

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Boredom and the Need for Change.

“Boredom is the conviction that you can’t change … the shriek of unused capacities.”
Saul Bellow

Boredom can mean that something has to be different in our lives. Feeling bored can be a stimulus for change. It is a kind of alert, a reminder that there is more to life than this daily grind.

Perhaps we do need boredom, then, to encourage us to seek direction, to move forward.

If we were never bored, we would not have the urge to research, to read, write, to invent, to travel.

If we ignore the bored feelings and do not use them wisely, we will merely return to the empty entertainment of the television or internet, to over-using our smartphones and the other mindless time-wasting distractions of the banal.

“Life is as tedious as twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”

William Shakespeare

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Image:Young people using smartphones at airport. Wikimedia Commons

However, if we regard boredom in a different way, as potentially good for us, a prelude to creativity, it becomes altogether more appealing.

“Boredom can be incredibly productive. It’s the fear of boredom that’s so destructive.”
Stephanie Danler

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La Touche- L’Ennui- Wikimedia Commons

In her book The Science of Boredom: The Upside and Downside of Downtime, Sandi Mann, a writer and university lecturer, describes a common reaction to students’ bored looks during a lecture.

Displaying boredom in this way often prompts the lecturer to make their material briefer or more interesting. Therefore…… the presence of boredom has created a change.

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This is a different way of thinking about boredom. It can be stimulating.

It is as if boredom clears the way for something better, more fulfilling. Perhaps it is like a fallow field, a space left for future growth.

In his 2014 academic article “The Bright Side of Boredom,” Elpidorou argues that boredom “acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects. In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.” Zomorodi.

Daydreaming.

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When we are bored, we may start to daydream as a way of escaping into a more interesting internal world. These daydreams can be very creative.

As we let our mind wander, problems that may have troubled us can be solved through reflection and self-awareness.

Sandi Mann discusses research into boredom and daydreaming, which has shown that people who are often bored do tend to be more self-reflective.

She describes research into boredom and daydreaming that indicates just how creative these may be:

“It is this attention shifting that is termed ‘daydreaming’ and is thus a common by-product of boredom. Indeed… research has shown that individuals use daydreaming to regulate boredom-induced tension, this suggesting that daydreaming is used as a coping strategy for dealing with the unpleasant state of boredom.”

Sandi Mann

Through the daydreaming process, we may discover new thoughts and ideas.

Einstein would go for long walks and then create ‘thought experiments,’ working things out in his head. He knew very well the value of aimlessness; it could promote real ideas:

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Albert Einstein

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Boredom in Psychotherapy

When I am feeling bored with a patient I become aware that something is being hidden underneath the patient’s boring facade. My feeling bored is a good clue that there is more going on inside the patient than meets the eye.

Countertransference refers to the feelings and emotions that the therapist experiences in response the patient. Those feelings give the therapist a powerful clue as to the thoughts and feelings of the patient.

“…Boredom, a countertransference, is, to use an overused phrase, grist for the therapeutic mill. Boredom is the window into emotional blocking, the common way in which people check out from themselves.” Dr S. Vollmer.

Often the bored front is a way of covering angry or shameful emotions; as a therapist, my own feelings have told me something valuable about the patient’s mental state. It is important to use this sensitive knowledge in a helpful and therapeutic way.

Boredom and Curiosity.

In a similar way, I find that if I am writing about a subject that actually does not particularly ‘grab’ me, that writing becomes boring, both to me and, I assume, the reader. Either I will find a more interesting angle of my chosen theme, or I will move on to another subject that sparks my curiosity.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
Dorothy Parker

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Child Reading. Renoir. Wikimedia Commons.

Have you any experiences of boredom leading to creativity? Please share in the comments box if you have. Thanks, Linda.

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