Note: the information in this article was gathered from personal experience, reflection, and work with my own feelings. Take it as you will.
Definition of Idleness, on this page:
A preference for inaction or inactivity, often marked by sluggish or slow-moving feelings. When one tries to act, it can feel like a struggle. Seems to be sustained by a constant drain on energy, such as harbored feelings of dissatisfaction.
It’s important to note that I do not mean relaxation, or restfulness that one perhaps finds rejuvenating or uplifting. Those can be very important, and seem to be healthy states of being. One can often get an idea that relaxation is idleness or laziness, but that may be a sign of impatience with relaxation, or other frustrations. Again, relaxation, to me, seems to be a healthy, uplifted state. Because of this, we seem to freely go to relaxation, while idleness feels like a trap. Idleness can feel as if one is suspended within a thick liquid, one that’s difficult to move through.
Probable symptoms of Idleness:
- Even if you feel comfortable, you get the sense that you’re being unproductive
- A preference for doing nothing
- Slow-moving feelings
- When you try to act proactively, it feels like a struggle
- Even if you want to do something about your idleness, it feels like too much of a strain and you might not put in the effort
- An absence of applied effort
- Lack of a wide-open feeling of freedom
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Lack of feeling satisfied (even, again, if you are feeling comfortable)
What Causes Idleness:
The main thing I’ve found, in my own experiences of working through idleness, is that it seems to be based on a drain in energy. One of the forces that seems like it can drain our energy is dissatisfaction.
Here’s how it all seems to work:
When we’re dissatisfied with things, even when we don’t realize it, it can drain our energy, making us more tired. Our momentum becomes slowed, and fighting with it becomes a struggle. Then, it becomes more comfortable for us to just become idle, since idleness becomes a way to avoid that struggle.
To simplify further: dissatisfaction -> tiredness -> struggle -> idleness
I do not know if it really follows this simple formula, but that’s basically how it seems to work.
One thing we can try to do to fight idleness is to try and be proactive anyway. Basically, we can force ourselves. But this, then, becomes a kind of unending struggle if the underlying drain on our energy isn’t dealt with – otherwise, it could just keep on draining our energy. Eventually, it seems like the struggle is going to get to us, or at least wear on us heavily.
So how do we address idleness?
I feel like the main thing has to do with addressing the drains on our energy. Of course, we may not feel like doing this! It may seem like a struggle just to work through our feelings! But one thing I’ve had success with, that seems to work quickly, is to focus on and understand your own feelings of dissatisfaction. It doesn’t take much energy or struggle to find things to grumble about, right?
By bringing up the things that one feels dissatisfied about, just that act alone seems to alleviate the dissatisfied feelings, and thus, bring back more positive feelings, like enthusiasm, happiness, and joy. It won’t necessarily work right away, or so easily, but perhaps it is worth a try, to see if it makes a difference.
Here’s an activity you can try, in order to bring awareness to your dissatisfaction and address any idleness you may be experiencing:
- Find a place to write, and write out a list of everything you feel dissatisfied with in life. You can start with whatever comes to mind out of what’s currently around you, and add to it as more things come up. For instance “that I have to even do this activity to work through my idleness. I rather it just take care of itself…”. These are things that you feel are “not good enough”, things you wish were different. Think about if you had ultimate freedom to nitpick about any aspect of reality, no matter how tiny. Even tiny things can be annoying, or less than satisfying.
- If you feel better, that’s the end of the activity. But, if you don’t, try to think of a few more! Maybe there are some you’re hanging onto, or just haven’t thought of yet.
- If you’re still feeling bad, one thing you can do is this: try to look over your list and find one that still feels dissatisfying, like it’s a major weight or drain on your energy. Maybe when you read it, you get a sinking feeling. Try to find a more uplifting way of approaching whatever it is you find dissatisfying. By doing so, you may start to break down your current, more negative mindset, similar to putting a dark clump of dirt into water, and watching it dissolve.
- If you’re still feeling bad, it might help to step away and give yourself some time to work through whatever it is you’re going through in your feelings, in your own way. It may be that whatever is weighing on you is somewhere else inside you. With awareness and attentiveness to yourself, you may be able to find it. Remember you can always use the other generic tools on this site (under “Explore Your Inner World”) to help yourself find and address things going on in your feelings.
If you’ve ever felt trapped by feelings of idleness or like you don’t know what to do in the face of it, it’s my hope that this little activity helps you by giving you at least one tool you can use during times like that. If, however, it doesn’t work, there’s always exploring on your own, in a more freestyle form, looking with awareness for what’s occurring inside you, and finding ways to respond positively to it.
Method #2 – Listing Choices:
Instead of listing out general “things” you’re dissatisfied with, consider whether or not you’re dissatisfied with the choices being presented to you by your mind/intelligence. After all, choice is within our power, but if none of the choices that are appearing in front of us are satisfying, we may go into more of an unenthusiastic slump.
To that end, try listing out the choices you have available to you, things you could do, and keep expanding that list with everything that doesn’t work – eventually, you may get to things that do work, which is the aim of this exercise. May take a while, but it may have a “clearing out” effect.
Potential Benefits of Working Through Idleness:
- More enthusiastic
- More proactive in life
- Greater joy and positivity
- Less struggle, more relaxed action
- More free-flowing feelings
Articles related to Idleness:
Powerlessness – Part of dissatisfaction may have to do with feeling disconnected from what we really want in life – we’re dissatisfied with certain choices being presented to us, and rather than this manifesting through indecision, it can manifest through dissatisfied idle activity.
Negativity – Dissatisfaction seems to be a certain kind of, perhaps more passive, negativity. The two seem to interrelate, and there’s a similar method one can take for addressing negativity (writing out a list of what one feels negative about, then offering one’s self different perspectives). Addressing negativity may also help with lack of enthusiasm.
Impatience – Many of the things that we feel dissatisfied with can be simple realities of life that we’re just getting impatient with. It would be a lot easier if we could just have things differently, and we could get to what we wanted. However, being able to handle the realities of life can help us to better live within reality as it actually is, and to feel more at ease with it.
Move Beyond Your Dissatisfaction with Life – article on the side of ourselves that can be perpetually dissatisfied with life, and how one can work with this side in order to better handle life’s problems, through more pro-active problem-solving
Wikipedia Article on Avolition – defined as “a psychological state characterized by general lack of drive to perform activities or pursue meaningful goals”, it seems like a form this kind of idleness can take.
Wikipedia Article on Laziness – goes into some details about laziness. I use the term “idleness”, because “laziness” can also be used in an accusatory way, or like when you don’t do something, that it’s something to be ashamed of, which I would disagree with.