I’m So Bored!
Have you ever heard this plaintive cry or uttered it yourself? This lament about boredom affects young or old alike. Unfortunately, however, we do not know about it, except boredom is very unpleasant. So, what is boredom, what seems to cause it, and what can we do about it?
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, second edition, the word bored “is a feeling of being weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in their current activity.” Another definition of “bored” is a “feeling” of having nothing to do. The word “feeling” in the last sentence is in quotes because boredom is subjective and in the person’s conscious experience. In other words, if two people attend a lecture and one is bored and falls asleep. Still, the other one is fascinated. It means that they each have a different and subjective reaction to the same experience. Due to feeling bored, one person cannot focus their attention on the lecture and gradually fall asleep, unlike the political science class I took in undergraduate school many years ago. Others in the class were fascinated, but I could barely keep my eyes open.
What Causes Boredom?
It has never been clear what causes boredom, but many theories and explanations exist. Speculation has it that some people crave a lot of external stimulation to prevent boredom. The particular type of external stimulation will vary from one individual to the next. For instance, those extroverted people are very successful in finding people to speak to and avert becoming bored. The constant stimulation from the successful ways they interact with people is a continuous source of them. However, introverted people may have more of a problem finding motivation because socializing with people does not come so quickly to them.
Some researchers believe that some people experience boredom out of an inability to know what they are feeling and what they want. Alexithymia is the inability to understand what one’s feelings are.
People who experience alexithymia lack a fantasy and dream life or cannot remember their dreams. If they remember them, they have no way of explaining or imagining what they might mean. One does not have to experience alexithymia in its full-blown flatness. Still, the inability to know what one prefers to do is a similar type of thing. In other words, it is the inability to know what to do, what might feel good, or to have any hobbies, interests, or enjoyments that leads to the feeling of being bored.
One theory of boredom comes from psychoanalysis. The theory states that boredom is anger and hostility that a person turns against the self, resulting in boredom.
Many professionals in substance abuse state that boredom is one catalyst for drug and alcohol abuse. The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that yearning or wanting, along with bored feelings, leads the alcoholic to drink. Using a similar explanation, many teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol out of boredom at home and in school.
Many years ago, I suggested that adolescents feel bored because their metabolism operates more quickly than during adulthood. The supposed result is that young people experience time passing very slowly. Supposedly, as we age, metabolism slows with the result that time seems to pass more quickly. Well, I do not know if a slowed metabolism is why time seems to fly by so fast for me, but it certainly seems to move at an ever-quickening pace, and many of my peers agree.
Addiction specialists believe that boredom can be a symptom of depression. The lack of interest in anything is the withdrawal from the world due to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. In addition, a lack of stimulation in the environment can promote boredom among small children because their natural curiosity and need to explore are not satisfied.
Finally, in school, classes that are either too difficult or too easy for a child or adult can lead to boredom. For example, those who are incredibly bright and have high IQs can feel bored if the content of the lessons is not stimulating because they are too easy. On the opposite side of the spectrum, classes that are too challenging for students can lead to boredom because what they are learning is beyond their ability or readiness to master the content.
What to do?
Suppose you have a chronic sense of boredom or a child who complains about boredom at home or school. In that case, you need to explore the possibility of depression or something else causing that uncomfortable feeling. For example, if your child is bored in school, they might be in the incorrect class. While many children complain about boring school, they should not dismiss it. Many youngsters are unwilling to talk about what is bothering them at school. Perhaps there is a bully the youngster fears to discuss or due to classes being too easy or hard. A fear of talking about “I am bored” can represent many things, especially when a child constantly repeats it.
There is always the possibility of consulting a mental health professional for yourself or your child if boredom continues unabated.