Sunday, September 25, 2016
Boredom from a Gay Perspective
Boredom from a Gay Perspective
Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.
Gay people are naturally creative and industrious. They are often a small percentage of any population and yet their societal contribution is enormous. I take a great deal of pride knowing not only gays, but also our courageous lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, and queer members of our community have always stood up for causes that make this world a better place. This short article mostly focuses on gay men and the issue of boredom. Many points being made here do apply to lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, and queers as well.
Despite growing up gay in a homophobic world which can discourage artistic expression, gay people’s creative spirit continues to shine. Given their rich imagination, the experience of chronic boredom and a sense of inertia is contrary to a gay person’s true essence. Whether boredom is momentary or a long lasting experience, it stops people from living a full life. In order to deal with boredom, it is important to understand and learn how to transform it. Examining and understanding your emotions is an opportunity for personal growth. One of the places to examine your emotions as a pathway toward knowing yourself is in a therapeutic setting with a licensed psychotherapist. Working with emotions can be intense, and you need a trained professional to help you navigate through the sea of emotions. In my work as a psychotherapist (licensed MFT), I work collaboratively with my clients. I explore their somatic experiences, feelings, and thoughts in order to support them on their journey of self-discovery to alleviate their boredom.
What is boredom? From a psychological perspective boredom is an emotion, and like any emotion, it can carry important information and messages about your current needs and sometimes unmet needs from the past. It can also reveal something about your current state of mind which becomes an opportunity for deeper analysis. People who are bored often experience life as monotonous. Sometimes boredom can accompany another emotion such as frustration or a feeling of emptiness. When a person gets overwhelmed by ongoing feelings of boredom he can asks himself, “What is boredom trying to reveal to me about my relationship to my psyche, my soul, and the world around me?” or “How can boredom become an opportunity to add meaning and purpose to my life?” The answers to these questions require personal reflection which can become a doorway to a deeper connection to oneself.
An important approach toward understanding boredom needs to involve evaluating your relationship to your sense of curiosity. Curiosity is an emotion that plays a vital role in motivating you to show interest in yourself and the world around you. When fully in effect, curiosity can neutralize your sense of boredom and help you to passionately engage with the mystery of life. When curiosity is embraced, boredom disappears.
When you show curiosity toward your experience of boredom, you are less dominated by it. In general, becoming curiously conscious of your emotions help you to be less controlled by them. By becoming aware of any particular feelings in the moment, you can choose to either embrace the emotion and fully experience it or let it go. “Empathic witnessing” of an emotion such as boredom in the moment without judgment gives you more choices on how to deal with your emotions.
Sometimes boredom, like a habit, stays with people and it takes willpower to try to change it. Your willpower can be used as a determination muscle to focus on making positive changes in your inner and outer life. You can use your willpower to direct your attention away from boredom and use your curiosity to explore uplifting experiences. For example, when feeling bored you can make an effort to get out of your “comfort zone” and explore healthy activities that you never tried before. Eventually, being curious becomes a personal habit that replaces boredom and enriches your life.
It is important to note that embracing curiosity might be challenging for many gay people because of a homophobic upbringing. Many gay individuals as a youngster felt too ashamed to show curiosity toward their homoerotic feelings which caused them to find curiosity too threatening to embrace. The habit of embracing curiosity needs to take place at a young age with support of caring adults. The absence of such support makes curiosity less accessible and difficult to embrace.
As you engage with your boredom through your curiosity, you can notice where in your body you sense your boredom. Locating bodily sensations that correspond to how you feel in the moment is another important way of managing your emotions. I often hear clients share with me about experiencing boredom as a sense of dread and emptiness in their chest area. Individuals that I work with in a therapeutic setting often find it helpful when I invite them to curiously scan their bodies and look for sensations of strength. Focusing on a sensation of strength anywhere in their bodies which might include places like the upper arms or legs can lessen their sense of inertia. For others who can’t notice any sensation of strength, they might benefit from making a pleasant or neutral sensation as their focus. For example, neutral or pleasant sensations can be experienced by inviting clients to notice the support of their upper back against the couch. In general, tracking the neutral or pleasant sensations in your body can add harmony and balance to your inner world.
Your curiosity can also be directed toward examining your thinking patterns and belief system. You might discover a link between your beliefs, thoughts and boredom. Many gay people were raised to believe that they were sinners for their same sex attraction. As such, they have developed a belief system that does not leave much room for feeling deserving of happiness. Thought patterns based on such a negative core belief system can lead to a life void of joy and pleasure. By using the muscle of determination with an attitude of empathy and kindness, we all can change our negative beliefs and thinking. By developing a belief system based on love and acceptance of ourselves, we can feel deserving of joy and vitality instead of boredom and inertia.
From a spiritual perspective, chronic boredom might reveal a lack of relationship to one’s soul and the soul of the world (Anima Mundi). Given that gay history has been often intertwined with shamanism and mysticism, getting bored and living a dull life reveals disconnection from one’s gay essence. From a spiritual perspective, the remedies for such condition can involve not only connecting to one’s gay soul but also connecting to a sacred place within one’s heart through meditation and other spiritual practices that correspond to one’s chosen path. Recognizing a divine spark within one’s heart can be enough to transform boredom and sense of emptiness to feeling of aliveness.
Boredom affects everyone, and it becomes a reason for concern when it turns to an ongoing psychological state. Boredom like any challenging emotion can become an opportunity for deep psychological work. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help when boredom turns to a painful psychological state.
© Payam Ghassemlou MFT Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Psychotherapist) in private practice in West Hollywood, California. www.DrPayam.Com