Back when I was completing my psychotherapy training, I was working as a grief counsellor in order to accrue my clinical hours to graduate.
The work between one particular client and I had becoming stilted, disconnected and boring.
I could intuit that both of us felt like we were holding back and instead we were just going through the motions.
I decided to brave talking about this with my supervision group. Gasps went up from my peers when I admitted to being bored but my supervisor’s ears pricked up. Warming to the topic he invited me to share more of my experience of being in the room with my client.
“It’s just…boring” I said.
“Boring in what way?” he pushed.
“I’m bored of hearing the same story over and over again. I’m bored because nothing seems to be changing and I don’t feel like I’m helping in any meaningful way. I’m bored because everything seems to have gone into this “nice” and “polite” kind of a place and it doesn’t feel real, engaged or authentic” I shared.
Then he said something so game changing that I’ve never forgotten it.
“What is your boredom defending?”
I paused, realised I hadn’t quite grasped what he was going for and asked for more clarification.
“There is something about your client’s story which triggers you and your boredom is a psychic defence against having to go there and feel those feelings. What do you think your boredom is defending?”
Urgh. Sucker punched right in the gut.
I knew, immediately, what my boredom was defending. I experienced a full-body, visceral response to his words.
Tears welled up into my eyes and splashed down my cheeks as I told him and the rest of the group.
“I am SO jealous of my client. She has everything I never had. She’s grieving the loss of her mother who died in her 80’s and my client is in her 50’s. My mum died when she was 41 and I was 11. She’s got me, a grief counsellor who’ll work with her for up to a year…free of charge!…until the acute feelings of grief have become much easier to bear. I never had that…there was no safe container for my grief and literally months after my mother died, I moved countries leaving behind everyone and everything I knew. Two huge losses at very young age in a short space of time.” I raged through the sobbing.
“It’s not fair” I finally whimpered.
I worked through all of this, diving much deeper with the support of my skilled supervisor and my peers to own my stuff and give it a space where it could be expressed safely.
The next session with my client I was a different counsellor and in turn she was a different client. That was a definitive turning point in our work together.
Sometimes, boredom is just boredom. But sometimes it’s signalling something much more interesting.
Where and with whom are you bored? What might your boredom be a defence against?
If you’re bored at work is it a defence against having to face up to the fact that in order for things to change you’re going to have to have some tough talks?
If you’re bored in the bedroom is it a defence against having to face up to the fact that there’s been a disconnect in your relationship for a while?
What might shift if you courageously admitted you were bored? What might you discover your boredom was keeping you from experiencing?
How much richer could life get if you went beyond “I’m bored”?