“I’m just lazy.” I often hear that from clients when we approach the topic of changing self-defeating patterns or habits.
When I hear the word “lazy’, I get very curious. Because essentially I don’t believe that laziness exists.
Underneath the experience of lazy, or “bored”, is something much more interesting. Typically what lies beneath is a feeling of fear or shame. We may just not be aware of it.
We experience “lazy” because we don’t want to experience fear. We run away from fear. Nobody likes it. Most of us spend a lifetime fleeing it.
It makes a certain sense. Doesn’t life get better when we can avoid unpleasantness?
In the short term, perhaps the answer is yes. But in the long term, the fear is still lurking within us and will guide our actions in destructive ways. If we keep ignoring the underlying fear, we end up joyless. And anxious.
As the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “It is a bewildering thing in human life that the thing that causes the greatest fear is the source of the greatest wisdom.”
What Are We Afraid Of?
Perhaps the most common human fear is abandonment. It is very dangerous to be open to others. We can be hurt so easily. This is a universal, “built-in” human fear.
In fact we share this fear with all animals that live in packs. Notice how your dog follows you around the house and gets upset when she can’t find you.
When we begin to connect more deeply to friends or lovers, we begin to grow in ways we hadn’t planned. And that brings on more opportunity for fear.
What Are Men Afraid Of?
Men have a few fears that are unique to their gender. One thing that most men are afraid of is their own femininity. Culturally, both gay and straight men have been taught that the more “feminine” aspects of their selves are not okay.
Some of those “feminine” traits include compassion for self and others, connecting emotionally with people, and paying attention to one’s own tender feelings. Without those traits a person lives a self-estranged life. That is the life of most men.
Gay men can get an extra dosage of shame around their masculinity because it wasn’t typically validated by their fathers. Or by the television, classmates, or teachers and coaches.
Shame leads to shut down. It stops growth. It stops curiosity. It deadens us inside. And we may experience it as boredom.
So What Can We Do About Fear?
When you catch yourself feeling bored or lazy, try to take a few moments to get curious. Before immediately running to your preferred distraction of Facebook, shopping, porn, a cocktail, fast food, bad television, or web surfing, give yourself a minute or two to ask the question “What’s happening inside me right now?”
You probably won’t get an answer right away. It takes practice to go inside.
Journaling helps a lot. Just start writing anything on the page. Fast. If needed, just fill the page with “this is very stupid and I have nothing to write” over and over again. And then stay curious about what’s happening inside. Something will emerge.
Fear is the enemy. Luckily, the enemy always retreats when we simply get the courage to pay attention to ourselves.
Again, some wise words from Carl Jung: “Real liberation comes not from glossing over or repressing painful states of being, but only from experiencing them to the full”.