Dear Therapist..."I'm Languishing – What Can I Do?"
I feel like I'm languishing, and I don't like it one bit. Do you have any tips? Can you tell me what it's about and why this is happening? And what I can do?
You are not bla, however bla you may feel. Languishing is a concept that is very trendy as a term right now, especially since Adam Grant's article in the NY Times. The ancient Greeks were into the concept too, with their term acedia, which means feeling torpid, on the verge of apathy. The term is useful for identifying how many of us feel. It could be argued that now that we have the term on our minds, we are seeing it just everywhere.
Even the most prolific creative geniuses have fallow moments. I think we should normalise languishing and give ourselves a pass for the fact that we're surviving even if we're not thriving. The problem is that we've been giving ourselves a pass for a while now, and we're starting to judge ourselves and feel like we should get going. We think enough is enough. And springtime offers us all these examples of growth, new life, blossoms everywhere but within ourselves.
One of the problems with languishing is how uninspiring we find it – we're turned off by ourselves. I see people talking about their languishing and they look so disappointed with themselves, so let down. Languishing is the unattractive sibling of ennui. The existentialists really gave ennui a great image – we picture someone with a kind of insouciant glamour, sitting at a cafe, feeling bored and slightly superior. Languishing is the unsexy anyone, bla and beige. We're tempted to stop caring, we're that unseduced by ourselves. A lack of inspiration is a telling sign. And if you haven't noticed how uninspired you are, that too says a lot, that you've stopped realising that you want inspiration. Keep caring. Hang in there.
You ask what you can do. Make a point of noticing life's beauties in small ways. Encourage yourself to be astonished by everyday details. Notice the leaves. Smell the spring air. Open yourself to the freshness of lived experience. Motion and connection and creativity are the best remedies for languishing, because we discover awe again, we engage with what it means to be us, in small but giddy ways.
It's very counterintuitive to cultivate these habits so it takes some discipline and strategic planning. You're probably tempted to just stay where you are with your worn-out sense of life – why bother? So override that instinct to stay put with all your habits and stasis. Put aside thirty minutes a day, whatever is available, and insist on making that space be something that's creative or playful rather than consumptive or productive. It might be writing or doodling or listening to a song all the way through without looking at your phone or researching something online. Making a point of being with yourself, like it's a date, a date you won't bail on, and show up for yourself and just spend time being with yourself in the world again.