Otto Fenichel: Psychological Boredom

by Christian Parreno

I am excited. If I allow this excitation to continue I shall get anxious. Therefore I tell myself, I am not at all excited. I don’t want to do anything. Simultaneously, however, I feel I do want to do something; but I have forgotten my original goal and do not know what I want to do. The external world must do something to relieve me of my tension without making me anxious. It must make me do something, but so that I shall not be responsible for it. It must divert me, distract me, so that what I do will be sufficiently remote from my original goal. It should accomplish the impossible, afford a discharge without drive-action.

Fenichel, Otto (1951) ‘On the psychology of boredom’ in Organization and Pathology of Thought. Edited and translated by David Rapapport. New York, NY – USA: Columbia University Press. Originally published in 1934.