In my work to help people get off drugs and alcohol, I keep hearing “boredom” cited as a reason for substance abuse. A lot of self-destructive behaviours are motivated by boredom – when life seems meaningless and no longer interesting, we seek out ways to inject more fun, danger, madness into our lives.
Why do our lives become so boring? The question we need to ask first is, why do we become bored with life?
Human beings by nature seek stimulation, because we seek to grow. Without stimulation, there can be no growth. Stimulation implies movement, and growth is a movement. Our deepest core is made up of a vibrant and creative energy that is alive all the time. This is the core of who we really are. Stagnation of any kind dampens our spirit and kills the passion in us. We feel bored so we seek new experiences and in the process we enrich our lives and grow through the experiences.
Life does not always become interesting for you, you have to look for the interesting bits. And when you do look, you will likely discover an abundance of those bits. One of the marvels of life is that we can make it the way we choose – if we look at it as boring, we will find evidence of it being boring; if we look at it as a treasure map and look enthusiastically for the treasures, we will find them.
Life has the potential to be interesting, stimulating, exciting, enriching and fun. Since our deepest being is also all of those, we only need to open our hearts and bridge to that potential. When life seems boring, we are to push past that boredom and get to joy and beauty. Boredom is often an illusion.
A lot of people give up too quickly when faced with boredom. They resign to the idea that life cannot be any more interesting, so they turn to using drugs. Drugs is a quick fix. But when the drugs wear off, the boredom is still there. So it drives them to take more drugs to get more excitement, but that excitement is an illusion. We can only trick ourselves momentarily and we quickly realise this, so we also quickly become addicted to drugs to maintain that illusion.
People in recovery from drug addiction often start discovering that life can be exciting without drugs. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is to facilitate that process and witness someone’s discovery of joy when they peel the layers of their existence. Often, that discovery comes when they allow themselves to slow down and deepen into the moment – which means becoming more present in the experience.
Sometimes, after we’ve deepened into an experience, we realise that it really isn’t for us and then we opt for something else. But if we don’t give ourselves the chance to find out, we might miss out on what might be an enriching experience. Seek to deepen rather than to constantly move laterally. Doing the latter tends to leave a trail of unfinished projects and a less-than-fulfilling life. When we give ourselves the chance to find out more about an experience we are already in, we’re more likely to create more joy in our lives. Even if an experience isn’t good for us, we’d only find the clarity to make changes after we’ve deepened into it.
The word “flat” is sometimes used to imply boredom. It’s an apt description because boredom makes our existence feel like a flat sheet that lies in front of us. It is not that our existence has become flat, it’s that we have been cruising along life with a flat attitude – just passing time and not deepening into our experience. If we gave ourselves the chance to find out by participating fully in life, looking beyond the apparent boredom, we would open a door which opens to more doors exponentially.
Boredom, a Resistance to Feeling
Sometimes boredom is a resistance to feeling uncomfortable feelings. In terms of resistance, boredom falls into the same category as numbness (when we cannot feel), detachment and laziness. If we feel bored, we’d want to stop what it is we’re doing and do something else, so we don’t stay in one place long enough to experience what is going to come. Fear of experiencing discomfort should we stayed long enough can motivate us to manufacture boredom to get us to escape from feeling that discomfort. Boredom can give us the excuse to not participate in life.
We may also manufacture boredom as a defence against feeling good feelings. If we have a fear of success or grapple with feelings of unworthiness, the onset of opening up to a space of expansiveness where positive feelings and outcomes are possible can be a scary prospect. So we put a block to it to stop ourselves from going into that space, and we manifest among other things boredom. When we feel boredom, we can then tell ourselves that we’ve hit a wall and so we need to change our route.
People who are addicted to drugs are prone to feeling bored easily (or people who get bored easily often become addicted to drugs). In recovery, the responsible approach is to be honest about the emotions we feel and raise our awareness around our behaviours. We stay with what is happening inside of us, address our conflicts and grieve our losses. Drugs and alcohol allow us to escape from all these processes which are very scary to a lot of people, so instead of confronting what is happening, they create boredom to get out of it. (This, of course, is often done without their conscious awareness – our fears often play out from the depths of our psyche.)
In this case, we would stop feeling bored easily once the real issues are dealt with, our inner conflicts reconciled and our pains healed. Boredom would no longer have a place in our lives, and suddenly, life becomes a whole lot more interesting – in a more stable, calmer way.
Ultimately, passion and excitement are found within us. We may seek something outside of us to feel stimulated but we can feel stimulated whether or not we encounter anything new in our external world. When we are able to feel inspired and joyful without any external stimulus, our behaviours change to become more loving and self-loving. Our external world instantly transforms into a playground full of fun and vibrancy. But we’ve got to give ourselves that chance of finding this out.