because if you’re bored you live better
Always linked to the pain of living, always seen as a negative sign of the decline of the times, from noia, we run away, or rather it is obligatory to run away. It is not good to stop, it is the imperative that marks the life of a child as well as that of an adult, in constant search of days without free moments, of calculated times, of continuous stress. But always shying away from this dimension, on ordinary days and even on holidays, in the end only created a misunderstanding detrimental to our balance: everyone runs away from boredom, and everyone ignores that it is an opportunity for growth. To understand, to understand each other, to think. The message is sent by psychologist Anna Silvia Bombi in his recent book The Right to be Bored (ed. Il Mulino, €13), written together with my colleague Daniele Malaguti. We interviewed her on the topic.
I don’t like boredom. But is she of no use?
It is useful, however, like any other emotion, which is always an indispensable sentinel to regulate our behavior. For example, fear tells us to escape, anger to fight back, and joy to maintain and intensify a certain situation. While boredom warns that the situation we are experiencing is not congruent with our basic needs. Those, in particular, of taking action and being committed to something. We, like all living beings, need to do something that must be specific, that puts us in contact with the outside world in a fulfilling way.
Where is the yawn?
According to psychology, there is a cognitive aspect to boredom: it occurs when our attention toward something or someone fails. This “distraction” is affected by both the actual characteristics of the activity undertaken, which may prove disappointing, too tiring, or unnerving, but also internal factors such as mastery of the situation, the ability to concentrate, and patience, some transitory states such as tiredness or an intrusive worry. It is our response to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, which, obviously, we face with the mood of the moment and with the internal resources available. Let’s take the example of a concert: even if we have decided to go there freely, even if we find it pleasant, at a certain point we can get bored because we don’t know the author well enough and we don’t grasp its value, because we’re sleepy because the mind wanders about something else.
Some, however, get bored more than others…
“Trait boredom” is within us, and is linked to certain personality characteristics. It is the recurring discomfort of impulsive people who are unable to concentrate or who are not used to waiting. These individuals are unable to bear any empty time, even minimal – the 4 minutes that the coffee comes out of the Moka, for example -, crushed as they are by the fear of not being able to do something else immediately.
Is this a sensation as an end in itself?
From a psychological point of view, boredom is a form of disgust, albeit less intense, which is often associated with various emotions: sadness if we are at home alone and idle; anger toward someone late for an appointment; resignation if we feel helpless in a certain situation; apathy if nothing seems to interest us. In short, seen from this angle there doesn’t seem to be much good in boredom which, for this reason, generates stress, impatience, restlessness, and a sense of wasting time.
How much does the contemporary cultural model weigh?
Modernity has brought with it a different evaluation of time. Now, it must be over-filled. Especially the free one, it is too precious and cannot be wasted. We live with the constant worry of using every crumb of it profitably. But, in the long run, this lifestyle based on the frenzy of always doing different things has exposed us to perpetual boredom and its cousin emotions: dissatisfaction, frustration, disappointment, and sadness, all unpleasant sensations because each of them reinforces the sign that something in our existence is not going right.
What has this voracity of experiences brought us?
At work, as a couple, in the family, with friends, now more than ever, the repetition of the same scripts weighs heavily on us, those routines that risk being saturated given that, in our eyes, they do not bring innovation. But in this way, we lost the two cardinal points so as not to get bored. The first guides us to consider that any habit shared with others is not necessarily immutable, variations, even small ones, can always be found within any routine. The second takes us to an even more important goal: custom is never a thing in itself but an integral part of an overall project. Therefore, if we do that job again in the office so many times, that we replicate the same scenario with our partner or friend, we no longer feel that exhausting weight when we think about the finished product, the couple’s project, the value of that relationship. . The goal of our actions should be general and complex.
So, can thought be the best antidote?
One of today’s great challenges is precisely to counter the greed with which we claim to multiply our reality by filling it disproportionately with ferments of all kinds. Against this temptation, grandiose in intentions but vain in results, thought can be a great remedy against tedium. It often doesn’t occur to people but reflection can be pushed forward to plan, backward to rethink, or placed in the present by adapting to circumstances. The time for “slow thinking” can never be valued enough, which is a great friend when we are about to get bored and allows us to be the ones to fill the time that slows down.
What advice do you give on this matter?
The most vivid and concrete image is the pensioner on the bench. The person who is the emblem of endless days without doing anything, in reality, according to various studies, is the person who is least bored. For him, a conscious choice. He has decided to rely only on himself and does not let himself be influenced by the lack of external pressures, he finds them in his interiority. He understood that in life you have to find, from time to time, a new register to move forward. He has practiced flexibility and, therefore, is adept at showing himself that there is always a fulfilling alternative.
Does focusing on your uniqueness help?
If we take as a model of our existence that of people with immense economic resources, with great personal successes or a fortune in which we have not stumbled, boredom takes the form of hostility, not even too pale, towards existence, nothing will ever seem Enough. Against monotony, we need a more reflective and less competitive look at ourselves. Being able to not get annoyed right away essentially means being aware of what we are in our reality.
Can boredom shine with its own light?
Yes. If we learn to laze, after all, we never have time still. That pause is a direct consequence of our choice and we give it great value because it allows us to connect with what we carry deep within us. Reversing priorities, what need is there to rush? There is us, and our thoughts. Let’s try, for once, to give ourselves time to listen to them!