News and Tribune


March 29, 2013

STAWAR: The bored horde


 According to educational researcher Ulrike E. Nett from The University of Konstanz in Germany there are three psychological strategies that people typically use to cope with boredom: 1. They reappraise the situation and try to increase the relative importance of the boring situation or activity; 2. They actively make changes to the situation to make it less boring; and 3. They evade the boring situation by seeking out a more interesting activity or diversion. 

Generally, boredom is seen as a negative force in people’s lives. However, like any situation that causes discomfort, it also can serve as an impetus for positive change by increasing our motivation to act. For example, an individual with a very boring job may use the boredom as a catalyst to seek out a more challenging and ultimately rewarding position. 

Finally, existential philosophers have viewed boredom, which they have called “a muffling fog,” as a fundamental dimension of human existence. In situations lacking any stimulation, the individual must confront “nothingness.” 

Directly experiencing this lack of meaning creates existential anxiety. Using “waiting at the railway station” as an example, philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote more than 100 pages on the topic of boredom, which, either ironically or perhaps fittingly, are themselves incredibly boring to read.

I had no idea Rosie could be so profound in her observations about spending time with me. I’m just afraid she might agree with Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, who once famously wrote “… there is a sense that any immediate moment of life may be fundamentally tedious [especially when spent with grandpa].” 


— Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D., lives in Georgetown and is the CEO of LifeSpring the local community mental health center in Jeffersonville. He can be reached at Checkout his Welcome to Planet-Terry blog and podcast at

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