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Why your life is boring

Corona, besides having serious and sad consequences for us and our society, has also made a lot of things more difficult and deprived us temporarily of many things that make life worth living in our privileged, Western world: Being together with friends and family, dancing, traveling, concerts. Life without these highlights may seem boring to us. What can we do about it? Find out more in the following article.

The story of your life

For many people, life feels like a story. We were born, experienced our childhood, which shaped us. Now we are adults, go to work, have children of our own or not. In the future, we may want to see more of the world, develop ourselves professionally and personally, and eventually have enough money to enjoy a relaxing retirement. It is certainly useful to reflect on our past experience and also to put our present behaviour in context with past relationship experience, as we would do, for example, in a psychological coaching session. Likewise, looking into the future can help us to develop goals and dreams, something to look forward to or to work towards. Especially when we are unhappy with our current situation, we can better bear our dissatisfaction and frustration if we hope for a better future.

But if we think about what our lives feel like on a daily basis, for most people it might be more like the feeling of everyday life. We get up, we feel maybe a little tired, go to work (or work from home), come home from work, eat, watch another show or read a book, and go to sleep. We have a certain routine in our lives that repeats itself like this or something similar every day. Most of the time, our lives are pretty “normal,” with no major highlights.

Even before the pandemic, life for most people was not all about exciting trips, marriage proposals, or fun evenings with friends and family. This is perhaps an impression that has been reinforced by the consumption of content from social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook. But social media only contributes to the feeling of dissatisfaction and sometimes boredom about one’s life. They are not the cause.

The thing about the Grey Gentlemen and our lost time.

Well, who still remembers the novel Momo by Michael Ende? In the story, which, by the way, Michael Ende finished in Italy because the “atmosphere of disdain for the German cultural world blocked him”1, the Grey Gentlemen rob the people of their time, under the pretext that people waste too much of it and need to save time. However, people do not save time, but the stolen time goes to the Grey Gentlemen, who eke out their dreary lives from it. The people are left with less and less time, joy of life and the feeling of leading a boring, empty life. The novel was first published in 1973 and seems more relevant today than ever. For although some of us (by no means all) may objectively have more time available since the pandemic than before, that time seems to be seeping away, not nourishing us. What is it all about?

Is it all a matter of planning and prioritization?

One could now assume that it is simply a matter of using the individually available time more efficiently, planning better and, simply put, on the one hand dealing with the things that have to be done and on the other hand planning enough time for things that give us pleasure, “fulfil us” or “recharge our batteries”. But this simple equation doesn’t seem to work for many people, or rather all our attempts to plan time wisely fail, the to-do list gets longer and longer, we feel rushed and maybe even secretly look around to see if there isn’t a Grey Gentleman following us, stealing our time. In our society, there is certainly a lot of focus on productivity, and we have the demand to use our time wisely. An earlier article was about the power of boredom and how we can make friends with it (link article). However, this article is not meant to be a social critique, but instead to point out what internal factors cause us to feel dissatisfied or bored in our lives.

(Oral) Needs

The proverbial expression that time, or what we spend our time doing, nourishes us already indicates a connection to our oral needs. The term oral needs, or oral fixation, is often used in the context of psychodynamic explanatory models for depression. According to this model, people with this fixation, due to early separation experiences or insensitive care by early objects, have a high need for affection and tend to become highly dependent in relationships out of fear of experiencing separation again. If a separation occurs due to their excessive need for closeness, their strict and rigid superego cannot allow the aggression that has developed toward the other person; instead, it is directed toward themselves, causing the depressive symptoms.

Even when there is no depression, we may carry within us the desire to be cared for more by others; our oral needs are then not sufficiently satisfied. This can manifest itself, for example, in overeating without having an appetite (bing-eating), in shopping addiction or excessive consumption of Netflix, Instagram, etc. If we are honest with ourselves, we will be able to name at least one thing where our time slips away and we allow ourselves to be “fed.”

Superego Conflicts

Our superego, a term coined by Freud, is a super thing in itself. It acts like a moral compass. It contains our norms and values, our sense of responsibility, which tells us what it means to function “socially compatible” in this society and how we behave toward our fellow human beings. It makes us get up in the morning and go to work (or sit down at our desk at home). At the same time, it also makes sure that we don’t smack the next person who isn’t wearing their mask properly, or throw our arms around the pretty employee at the supermarket. Unfortunately, the superego also has a catch. It can be too strict. This is especially evident when we feel like we can’t let go of our work. For example, when we can’t even finish an hour early with a clear conscience without having finished the task. If the thought of the weekend is rather agonizing because so much work will be left undone, this is also a sign that we have a rather strict superego within us, which on the one hand helps us to be successful at work, but can also obscure our view of our needs and the feeling of being satisfied with ourselves.

Declare war on the Grey Gentlemen

It is beyond the question that we can derive satisfaction and pleasure from employment, a fulfilling job and productivity. But if thoughts of boredom or meaninglessness often creep up on you in your daily life, it’s high time to do something about it. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by your work, we recommend this article (link Burnout). But it doesn’t always have to be burnout or depression. Sometimes smaller changes are enough.

The realization that we might be rushing through our everyday life as if a Gray Gentlemen were on our heels can already help to change something. It is important to research the causes. We all carry within us ideas about how we should behave towards work and life in general. These assumptions are often shaped by our parents. For example, the thought of more free time during the week can trigger feelings of guilt in us if we grew up with a mother who worked from early morning until night. Reflecting on this and being able to distinguish more which feelings are within ourselves and which ones are involuntarily given to us by our parents or others can help us make our own way in life and live our lives more freely.

If we feel we have come to a point where our lives and the time we have no longer seem to nourish us sufficiently, it can also be helpful to start looking for what we are missing. This question about our needs may sound trivial at first, but is more complex than we often think. This is because our needs are sometimes not readily accessible to us, hidden behind feelings of guilt and shame, or covered with prohibitions by our superego. It is not always a matter of changing our habits, which is not always possible, but sometimes it is also a matter of accepting or letting go of the urge to get further and further or to become better before we can be satisfied. Our life is more than the individual events that make it up. Looking beyond can help us to feel more alive in our lives, to have more control over our time again, and to be able to give the Grey Gentlemen a break.


M. Sc. Sophie Grußendorf, Coach, dynaMIND