What’s the unmet human need behind being bored?

Boredom isn’t a feeling. 

It’s an adjective, a description and a characteristic. 

But it’s not a feeling. 

Quite the opposite, in fact. Boredom is a word people say without any particular need to communicate how they are really feeling. It’s a rhetorical placeholder. A psychological dodge. Boredom signifies that there is an emotional reality lurking beneath the surface. 

When somebody is asked how they feel, and they respond by saying bored, it’s not that they’re wrong. It’s that they’re disconnected. 

Therapists have told their patients for decades that there are only a handful of primary human feelings. Mad, sad, glad and afraid. Everything else stems from that. 

Boredom may be a word that perfectly describe the repetitiveness and monotony of a job. But the more important question is, what’s your feeling lurking beneath the surface? What’s the unmet human need behind it? 

If you say you’re feeling bored, could that be code for lonely? Dissatisfied? Unmotivated? Might boredom be masking more specific and complicated and difficult feelings like hopelessness and apathy? 

I’m reminded of a cool study by a linguistics professors who researched the uses of the word boredom in the fiction of a particular novelist. His hypothesis stated that boredom constituted a fundamental dissolution of the distracted modern subject, in an unproductive disengagement from both world and self. 

Damn, now we’re getting somewhere. 

Have you ever felt disconnected like that before? It’s so nauseating. Just fucking lonely and sad. My entire freshman year of college was like that, and frankly, it’s hard for me to even locate any memories from that period of my life. Being nineteen was pissed away on boredom. 

That’s often what happens when someone announces to themselves that they’re bored. 

Once they buy into that narrative, they start engaging in compulsive, dysfunctional behaviors. Trying to stuff down unpleasant feelings by isolating, drinking, gaming, eating, watching six hours of television each night, whatever. 

They’re solving problems that have nothing to do with the activity itself. 

They’re not bored, they’re something else. 

Point being, we need to learn how to notice and name our feelings clearly. It’s an essential part of growing up. 

When we start experiencing difficult and complicated emotions, let’s not default to an ambiguous word that everyone can relate to and nobody will question. 

Since boredom isn’t a feeling, we should see if we can figure out what feelings that word is masking. 


How might boredom be the staircase that takes you down to more interesting places?

* * * *

Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.  



It’s the world’s first, best and only product development and innovation gameshow!

Tune in and subscribe for a little execution in public.

Join our community of innovators, artists and entrepreneurs


Daily updates straight to your inbox.


Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
Sign up for daily updates


Daily updates straight to your inbox.

Copyright ©2020 HELLO, my name is Blog!