“This is so boring.” My seven-year-old often says with his slight Boston accented “r”s common to young children. I can’t say that I disagree. In fact, many times I find tasks, circumstances or (embarrassingly) things people are telling me boring… Maybe you can relate.
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Think of standing in line at the DMV. Reading a book for school that doesn’t peak your interest. Watching the movie Frozen for the fortieth time in a row with your kids. Data entry. And I’m sure you could come up with many more. In this time of being quarantined many, not all, but many are getting stir-crazy. We want to go DO stuff. We want to hangout with friends and have dinner and go bowling and attend concerts and sporting events again. Even if we don’t have a list of things we are going to do when this whole thing lifts, just not having the restrictions anymore makes us feel less claustrophobic.
But what is boredom? What kind of emotion is it and why do we feel this way?
Surprisingly, the emotion of boredom is in the category of anger. Remember, anger is telling us that a boundary is broken. The specific type of boundary that boredom is showing us is what I call the “shoulds”. Boredom is trying to tell us that we are stuck in a place in which something else “should” be happening. Sometimes we even like to stay in this place because it feels good to complain and invite others into our misery. This is okay for a little while, but be careful not to set up camp here. If you watch what happens, you can see that we usually start talking about what “should” be instead of finding the good in what is.
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When we recognize our boredom we can thank it for helping us see that something isn’t right. It is urging us to action. It can be very helpful when we are avoiding something. For some of us we would stay hidden and comfortable without the urgency of boredom telling us to get off our butts and go do something.
Boredom invites us to ask: What purpose, achievement, impact, connection, or courageous acts have I been avoiding?
On the other hand boredom can point out personal entitlements that we often don’t realize until they are confronted. Based on our own moral and social codes we subconsciously are always bumping up against things that “should” or “shouldn’t” be as they are. When we are bored what is being communicated internally is something like: “I should be entertained right now. I shouldn’t have to wait in this line. I should get to avoid this discomfort. This production should be better. I should get to do what I want right now instead of what someone else wants.” When what we feel “should” be doesn’t happen, it often leads to resentment, another anger emotion.
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For Example: The impact is highlighted when you think of two different people practicing the art of solitude and silence. One is fidgety, distracted, uncomfortable, frustrated and has a tense body and face. The other is still, focused, calm, open, enjoying and has a light smile on their face and their body is relaxed. Same situation, environment and practice. One is bored and the other is not. Why? Because one has learned to let go of the “shoulds”. This person is able to relax into the experience and practice of not achieving, having impact or DOING anything. They are willing to just BE. They have found the beauty of what IS instead of what “should” be.