Sarah Luczaj takes a look at How to Cure Boredom, an upcoming e-book by fellow contributor Evan Hadkins.
This upcoming e-book from Evan Hadkins is 22 pages long and, like his previous e-books, Living Authentically and Thriving in Your Situation (see my review: “Thriving In Your Situation”), it is a mix of reflections and practical exercises, influenced by Gestalt therapy and aimed at people working in a flexible and individual way to investigate their own experience and thereby improve the quality of their lives.
The new element in this e-book is the inclusion of ideas for working with children, a new angle which probably suggested itself, due to the subject matter (young children being the most likely age group to persistently wail “I’m booored!”).
The book sets out to present the “cure” to boredom — which I think is a pretty tall order! Starting with the chapter “The Quick, Temporary Fix: Distraction”, Evan moves through “Going Deeper: Dealing With An Issue” and finishes up with “Permanent Change: Boredom Cured”.
“Going Deeper: Dealing With An Issue” was where, for me, things got interesting. “Boredom is a mix of resting and doing”, Evan observes, and leads us into an investigation of what it is in us which needs to rest, and what it is that we want to do. “Boredom is a mixture of acting and resting, but not doing either. We don’t act fully and we don’t rest fully either. Let’s look at what gets in the way of our resting and doing.”
This leads to an investigation of our needs, and our frustrations, carried out through gentle yet persistent observation, guided by the questions in the book. In the area of frustrations, we find unfinished business from various parts of our lives, and the process of finishing it, which involves mourning. In my experience, this area may be full of ‘actual’ mourning (for people who have died, sometimes many years ago) too.
Once unmet needs and unfinished business have been identified, the question is posed: what can we do to meet this unmet need, now? Maybe this is just a therapist talking, but it seemed to me that this was a question which needed fleshing out, and possibly a few months of talking over. At this point it seemed as if the questions in the e-book were like a rough sketch to the territory. At any point on the map, a point could be pressed, and we could go deeper, and that process might possibly be shortened by the close proximity of the ‘next stage’ on the page! This brings me back to the point I made while reviewing Evan’s last e-book — it might be optimally used in supportive pairs or groups.
I found the section on helping children to identify and meet their needs thought-provoking. The portrayal of a child’s world view and the frustrations involved in pressing it into an adult schedule is vivid and useful.
Finally, “Permanent Change: Boredom Cured” works through this ambitious conclusion in stages: “Watching Closely”, “Differentiating”, “Listening” and “Integration”. Evan’s take on boredom here gets a little more explicit; it is now conceived as a kind of paralysis that comes out of desires to do two different things at the same time.
The first step involves paying attention to thoughts, feelings and actions. The section on thoughts seemed to be referring to a kind of mindfulness and/or cognitive behavioural therapy approach, while the feelings and action sections seemed more Gestalt influenced, involving an exploration of what our bodies are telling us about our needs, by, say, exaggerating a physical movement we make when bored.
The process of achieving integration and then stepping out of the uncomfortable state of boredom is about drawing out each of these sides, listening to them, representing them in some way and bringing about an integration. The final state, in which boredom is cured, comes about when we have a real sense of what our conflicting needs are and can engage with them rather than avoid them and spend a large part of our lives either tapping our fingers and peering into the fridge or distracting ourselves with entertainment.
This feeling of engagement adds up, Evan writes, not to a state of permanent bliss, but a life of “interest and engagement” (we are actually present in order to be interested!) and an “underlying satisfaction”. In my opinion this is well worth striving for, and Evan is a skilful, thoughtful companion on the way.