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Boredom's Positive Qualities

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

"I'm bored!" The cry goes out in a thousand homes, innumerable offices and even at social events. It is the bête noire of the 21st Century existence, it would appear. Yielding to it may be just what we need.

Boredom appears to be that which haunts most children's and adult's existence now. We seek novelty and activity at all costs, spending enormous effort and expense in seeking evermore engaging gadgets to save us from the clutches of boredom. But is that the best thing for us? For our kids, for adults, for anyone?

Perhaps not.

For Freud, boredom was something which promoted a need for action, an escape from something. Perhaps that's where his concept of anxiety came to being. Anxiety is a state of turbulence, of internal action and the only time, he believed, that we would not be pestered by it would be when we were dead. In other words, anxiety is normal for human function, IMHO, and boredom may be an adjunct to anxiety. But it has its advantages.

Motivational psychologists tell us that there is a level of anxiety which energizes and another level which paralyzes, and in and of itself, anxiety is not a bad thing at all. Learning to manage it so that it becomes the engine of creativity and wonder and not complacency and fear is our task, if we wish to have a happy and fulfilling life. Yes, it's not always comfortable.

True, there are therapies for boredom such as diversional therapy, but this one is meant to help patients deal with cancer and the boredom it may bring. But, again, is that the best approach to something which may denigrate the hidden attributes of boredom and its inherent benefits?

The potential for quiet, thoughtful periods in our lives needs to be appreciated. If we banish it constantly by a manufactured "attention-deficit" disorder brought on by a need to constantly be active, we fail our abilities which will lie dormant and die without our ever knowing what they were or could be.

The cellars of our minds are brimming with creativity, but we fail to open the door, fearing what? That they will be empty or that we will fail or not live up to someone's expectation?

A writing course being taught now by Margaret Atwood is inspirational and motivating. In one of the videos, she instructs beginning writers to remember that the wastepaper basket is there for a purpose and that's for you to decide what's to be kept and what is to be thrown away. Don't be afraid to throw things away, she counsels, because that's all part of the activity. You decide what is acceptable and you don't allow other people to limit you.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for writing just as there aren't for much of life. Those who colored outside the lines were the creators, explorers and inventors who used that wastepaper basket for what it was intended and they pushed on. "Mistakes" are steps on the way to achievement. Never try and you'll never know. Your decision, but make it wisely and push through the anxiety and allow the boredom to happen.

Embrace boredom. Allow your mind to wander and wonder, to think quietly and to conceive the possible and, perhaps, the impossible.

If not now, when? This thanks to a wonderful saying by Rabbi Hillel.

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