Thoughts on boredom and depression – the importance of the self’s need for projection

Some time ago I found myself bored.  This made me think about it and what it was.  It also got me talking about some other things, such as depression.  Here are some of my thoughts:


Normally, we tend to feel that boredom is a result of “having nothing to do”.  I tended to feel that there was something more behind it.  I felt that boredom is actually related to what I call the projection/extension of the self (see my articles “Thoughts on the pre-self, primal self, world self, post-self, and the greater self” and “Thoughts on the progression of projection“).

Projection is related to a tendency where we see ourselves as the world.  In other words, the world is not just something “perceived” but a “part of us” or, rather, an extension of us.  It originates from our earliest years before the self has appeared.  At this stage we feel no difference between ourselves and the world . . . they are one.  As the self develops, though, we begin to feel a sense of the world and our self as a separate entity.  I often speak of this early phase when the self and world are equated as the ‘pre-self’.  The equation of self and world, during this time, is ‘projection’.  Since the tendency to equate the self and world – projection – is so rooted in our perception of things we naturally tend to continue this tendency after the self develops.

The tendency to equate our self with the world after the self has appeared I call ‘extension’.  Because ‘extension’ is so closely related to ‘projection’ I tend to speak of both of these tendencies as ‘projection’ unless I am being specific.

The projection tendency tends to create a strong sense and bond between the self and the world making the world very “real” and “alive” and a part of “me”.   In other words, the world is not just some inanimate object that is “just there”.  One effect of this is that it makes life something that is “experienced” and “lived”.  As a result of this, our association with the world becomes very influential and critical in how we view ourselves, the world, and our growth.  In some sense, projection becomes the “base of life” as everything rests on it.  This is because projection has impact on things like:

  • Self – how we view our self, as well as its development.
  • Association – how we relate with the world.
  • World – our views about the world.

In this way, we could say that these three things reflect three “self’s”:

  1. The “individual self” – this is the self, independent of the world, the self-as-self.
  2. The “association self” – this is the self that associates the individual self with the projected self below, the self-as-association.
  3. The “projected self” – this is the world as a reflection of the projected self . . . that is, our self-as-world.

Because of projection, the world is perceived as being part of our “self” which shows that our view of the world, and our association with it, is really a reflection of our selfAs a result, problems with the association with the world often tends to reflect problems with our “self”, not the actual world itself.  We basically confuse the world with our self.  This, it seems to me, is seen in boredom . . .


Boredom, Projection, and the Self

Boredom seems to be when the self cannot find some means for projection.  This means that it is much more than “just having nothing to do” but, rather, it describes a problem or inability in the self.  In this way, boredom is a manifestation of a problem with the self, not just a lack of activity, though a lack of activity can instigate this problem in the self.  So we see two forms of boredom:

  1. Boredom as a problem or inability of the self.
  2. The condition above being instigated in the self as a result of a lack of activity.

Some of the descriptions of boredom include:

  • There is no “doing”.  That is, one is “doing nothing” or “there is nothing to do”.
  • There is nothing to associate with.  That is, “there’s no one to play with”.
  • There is “nothing” in the world.  By this I mean that “there is nothing to be a part of”.
  • There is the wrong state of mind.  One may, for example, be in an “apathetic mood”.

These descriptions show that there is more to boredom than “having nothing to do” and that it can hit deeper into the self.  As a result, they reveal much about the purpose of projection and how it affects the self.  In other words, these descriptions reveal some traits of what the projection does to the self.  These include:

  • Doing.  The self needs something to do.  It needs something to keep it active.
  • Association. The self needs something to associate with.  That is, it must see something ‘beyond itself’.
  • Part of something.  The self needs to be a part of something.  This could be things like a job, a family, a hobby, an activity, etc .  This shows how projection is a quality that instinctively needs something else.
  • State of mind.  The self needs a state of mind that facilitates the self.   This shows that the self needs the “correct” state of mind and that the “wrong” state of mind can hinder the performance of the self.

What these shows is that the self uses projection because it needs, and seeks, these things.  In this way, we can see that projection is a critical and necessary part of the self’s association with the world.  It also shows that the self needs to relate with the world and that projection is part of the relationship between the self and the world.  In this way, projection as if stands in between the self and the world.  Without projection the self is hampered.

Qualities  and Orientations of Projection

As we can see above, there are various qualities or forms of projection . . . it isn’t just “one form”.  These same qualities also varies with its relationship with the world and the self.  That is to say, qualities of projection that is closest to the world reflect more “worldly qualities” and qualities closest to the self reflect more “self-based qualities”.  In this way, we could could say that something like a spectrum is created with the world on one end and the self on the other:

world>>>doing—association—part of something—state of mind<<<self

We can see that the more “worldly based qualities” tend to involve association with the world.  The more “self-based qualities” tend to involve aspects of the self.  In this ways, we could say that there tends to be two orientations of projection:

  1. “World-oriented projection”
  2. “Self-oriented projection”

Typically, problems of projection tend to be one form or the other but they end up affecting the opposite form sooner or later.  For example, when some people become bored its because there’s “nothing to do”.  This shows a problem with “world-oriented projection” (that is, there is no “doing”).  This can eventually start to affect the “self-oriented projection” and a person could start to have problems associated with their self (such as getting depressed, frustrated, etc.).

Projection and the “Completion  of the Self”

Since the self needs projection to experience life it shows that projection “completes” the self.  The self, by itself, is only half a self . . . the self projected is what “completes” the self.  What this shows, of course, is that there is an innate need to see ourselves in the world, to make our self “live” by making the world “live”.  The loss or inability for projection prevents this happening.  This creates feelings such as “loss”, “frustration”, “stagnation”, etc.  Feelings, such as these, are really the base of boredom.  In this way, we could say that boredom is an inability of the self to “complete” itself because there is a problem with projection.  Accordingly, the self does not “live”, causing anguish, and the world does not “live”, making it seem “dead” . . . boredom.

But since boredom is much like a “frustration”, and can be painful, it shows that it also has another side to it.  Basically, the self is trying to rid itself of the problem.  In other words, the self is trying to project itself but is having difficulty achieving it.  Despite this, it continues to try.  It strives and strives making boredom feel worse and worse and more painful.  In this way, it shows that boredom is also the self trying to “complete” itself when its having difficulty.  In fact, one could say that boredom is when one feels this strongly.  In some sense, one could compare it to a “gasping for breath”.

Experiencing Boredom

There seems to be several ways boredom is experienced:

  • Boredom as an event.
  • An overall sense of boredom which often comes and goes.
  • A way of life that permeates ones life.

When we think of boredom we generally think of the former.  In this form, boredom is a transitory event.  Not only that, it is generally in response to actual conditions (such as the fact that you do not have anything to do).  In this way, it is a normal and common event in life.

The latter two, being more general, tends to show that there is a deeper side to boredom.  It tends to be more prevalent even to the point of dominating (in the later case)In addition, it tends to not be in response to actual conditions.  Often, this shows that there is something involving the self.  This can reflect several conditions:

  1. A problem with the self (such as a neurosis, psychosis, etc.).
  2. A naturally appearing dilemma that involves the self (such as growth, religious feelings, etc.).

In this way, we could see that extensive boredom can be “bad” (a sign of a mental problem) or “good” (a sign of growth).  Sometimes, the line between these is not easy to draw.

Boredom and Belief

The naturally appearing dilemma form suggest a relationship between boredom and belief.  In other words, when one does not have a belief one tends to feel a general sense of boredomThat is to say, belief tends to alleviate the more general sense of boredom.  This is because belief tends to offer certain particular projection qualities described above – association, part of something, and state of mind – to the self.  When belief is absent these are absent from the self hindering projection and causing a greater tendency to boredom.

Interestingly, when lack of belief causes a lack of projection, and boredom, people tend to seek the more “worldly-oriented projection” as if to compensate for it and alleviate the boredom.  That is to say, they tend to seek the “doing”.  They try to find activities that make them do things, such as bicycling, building models, etc.  Being more world-oriented they tend to be physical in form with an absence of self orientations.  For some people this can become a way of life.  But all it is, really, is a life of avoiding boredom by overemphasizing the qualities that best avoid it.  That is, by being “active” the boredom caused by lack of belief is alleviated and appears to be gone.  Deep down, though, the boredom remains creating a great inner “emptiness” within many people.

This situation is seen a lot in civilization.  Life in a civilization tends to, by its nature, cause a boredom in people.  One could even go so far as to say that a lot of the traits of civilization is a reaction to boredom or, to be more precise, an avoidance of boredom.  A lot of this, it seems to me, is a result of the absence of belief civilization tends to cause in people.  This as if cause a reaction such as this:

  1. The lack of belief . . . an inability to project . . . boredom.
  2. A moving away from a self orientation.
  3. A sense of emptiness deep within caused by the boredom.
  4. A moving to a more “active” orientation (the “doing”) as the only means to not be bored.
  5. The creation of an “active” based life to avoid boredom.

In this way, a life of avoiding boredom is created, though it doesn’t appear that way.  This is because their more “active” orientation hides it all making it seem that they are not bored at all.

Dealing with Boredom

Generally, the first solution to boredom is try to find something to do.  This often works for the simpler transitory form of boredom (“boredom as an event”).  But for the deeper forms of boredom it often does not work.  As a result, other techniques are required.

Because boredom is associated with the self a common “solution” to the deeper forms of boredom is to find some ways to forget ones self.  This often appears in ways such as:

  • A self loss – a “letting go” of ones self, such as forgetting that one exists (seen in something like Buddhism)
  • Passive action – some diversion like watching TV (the self remains passive)
  • Active action – finding something that one is passionate about (the self becomes active)
  • Inner action – developing a deep belief in something (such as religion or some cause)

Typically, several ways are used together and one complements the another.  Also remember that these are actions of the self, of what the self does.  This is because boredom is a problems of the self and the self must be addressed in dealing with it.

I should point out that since the self is stagnate in boredom it often has no “will”.  As a result, one often has to put themselves in a situation where they “find themselves” doing one of these activities.  That is to say, a person doesn’t just will one of these things to happen and boredom goes away.  In a state of boredom the will is weak and generally unable to will anything to happen.  As a result, a person often has to allow themselves to be put in a position where these things as if happen on their own and they are as if “swept into” these activities.  In this way, being “swept into” them as if takes the place of ones will.  In some cases, something like a friend, a commitment, or conditions, will end up forcing a person to do these activities . . . otherwise, they would never be done at all.

Sometimes, the solution to boredom is to be around other people.  These other people as if take the place of your stagnate self and lack of “will”.  In this way, they may help initiate one self out of boredom.


Boredom can affect how one views these things:

  • Ones self (“I feel worthless”).
  • The world (“the world is empty”).
  • How one associates with the world (“there’s nothing to do”).

Sometimes one is felt and sometimes many are felt.  These problems, typically, are transitory and only last as long as the boredom lasts but can be somewhat severe at times for some people. What these show is that boredom tends to have a depressive quality and can even cause a depression.  In this way, we can see that depression is a form of the failure of projection. 

Some qualities of depression include:

  • A lack or inability of projection – “inhibited projection”
  • A projection turned inward – “inward projection”

Generally, these tend to go together.  As a result, depression is the self’s tendency to a projection that is turned inward because it is unable to project itself onto the world.  In other words, it is “the need for projection gone in the wrong direction”.  And, like boredom, it has the impetus of the self trying to project but having difficulty achieving it.  In this way, depression entails a drive of the self to find a means for projection.  This gives depression, like boredom, a drive that can make it worse and worse.

“Inhibited projection” and “inward projection” tends to cause sensations similar to the senses described above (doing, association, part of something, state of mind).  They reflect common feelings in depression.  These sensations include:

  • A desire to do nothing – a lack of “doing”.
  • A sense of being detached from the world and people – a lack of “association”.
  • That what one does has no “value” – a lack of being “a part of something”.
  • An instability of mind – the wrong “state of mind”.

These all describe a failure of projection, which causes an inability of the self to “complete” itself.  This tends to cause reactions of the self that can be quite dramatic.  These include:

  • A feeling of death
  • A feeling a loss
  • A feeling of failure
  • A feeling of inability

These all show a dilemma of the self and that the self is as if “failing” to work.  This is because the self cannot project itself and is not being “complete”.  In extreme depression, the self is as if dying and failing to maintain itself as a separate entity because of this.  This causes several senses:

  • That the world, and everything in it, is not living and is dead
  • That the self is dying and ceasing to exist

If these are strong enough it can create a desire to die, which can even lead to suicide.  These are common problems in depression.  The former sense is caused by “inhibited projection” which causes the later, “inward projection”, which fails.  When both of these fails the self has nowhere else to project.  Having nowhere to project the person see’s “life” nowhere and begins to seek to “not be”.  This eventually turns into a desire to die.

Because depression causes one to turn inward, toward the self, it often tends to create a form of a narcissism, or a strong self concern, in depression.  This can play a big part.  It tends to add a new “force” that can do things such as:

  • It can “push” a person deeper into depression.
  • It can prevent a person getting out of depression as the depression has begun to satisfy a narcissism.

In this way, narcissism has this odd effect that it can give depression a quality of getting into a hole one can’t get out of.  Because of boredoms association with depression it often takes on a similar quality, of a hole one can’t get out of.  As a result, one often feels “trapped” by boredom as well, and unable to get out of it.


Overall, boredom and depression tends to described a “poverty of self” or, more precisely, a “poverty of self experience” primarily by an inability to projection.  In this way, they are really a form of self dilemma and are reactions that can end up doing more damage.  In some respects, one could compare them to an inflammation . . . it is a natural reaction to an adverse condition, and usually helps, but the reaction can get out of control and end up creating more problems than the condition that caused it.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Existence, Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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