NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Boredom as a Secondary Emotion: Discovering the Underlying Emotions in Therapy

In my prior article, Understanding the Different Types of Boredom,  I discussed the different types of boredom and how being aware of the type of boredom you're experiencing can lead to your taking action to address your needs.  In this article, I'm focusing on boredom as a secondary emotion that masks deeper unconscious feelings.

Boredom as a Secondary Emotion: Discovering the Underlying Emotions in Therapy

Boredom as a Secondary Emotion
Regardless of the type of boredom someone might be experiencing, when a client comes to my private practice in New York City and tells me that he's bored, I know that boredom often masks other underlying emotions like anger, sadness or fear.

In other words, boredom can be used unconsciously to defend against feeling these other emotions that are more difficult for most people.

The Mind-Body Connection in Psychotherapy
Often, talking about boredom in therapy goes nowhere.  But using the concept of the mind-body connection in psychotherapy often leads to discovering unconscious feelings (see my article:  The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

Clinical Hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing and EMDR Therapy are three types of mind-body oriented treatment modalities that can help to discover the unconscious roots to emotional problems.

A Fictional Vignette to Discover the Unconscious Roots of Boredom
Let's take a look at a fictional vignette which illustrates how the mind-body connection works:

Sam started therapy because he felt bored and stuck in a rut at work, and he didn't know what to do about it (see my articles: Getting Out of a Rut - Part 1 and Getting Out of a Rut - Part 2).

Sam had been in therapy before, but he wanted to try something different, so he chose a psychotherapist who focused on the mind-body connection because he thought it would help him to go deeper than he had in his prior talk therapy.

As he described his boredom with his job, his psychotherapist explained that there are different kinds of boredom and it seemed that the particular type of boredom that he was experiencing was reactive boredom where he wanted to escape from his responsibilities, but he didn't know what to do.

In subsequent therapy sessions, his therapist spoke to Sam about boredom being a secondary emotion that often masks other unconscious feelings.

She also spoke to him about using a technique in clinical hypnosis called the affect bridge  to help him to get to the underlying emotions.  She explained that he would be in a relaxed state where she would help him to focus on the boredom, where he felt it in his body, and they would see what else came up in terms of underlying emotions and possible memories.

By the time Sam and his therapist spoke about the affect bridge as part of hypnosis, he already felt comfortable with her and the way she worked, so he agreed to try it.

His therapist started by helping Sam to get grounded and to relax.  Then, she asked him to notice where he sensed the boredom in body.  Sam thought for a few moments, and then he responded by saying he felt the boredom in his upper stomach.  He experienced it as agitation.

His therapist encouraged Sam to continue to feel into the boredom, including the agitation, in his upper stomach.  After a couple of minutes, Sam said that he was aware of a rising sense of anger.

A few minutes later, he remembered a conversation he had with his parents when he was in his early teens.  At the time, he was angry with them because they would often go out and leave him in charge of his three younger siblings.

He said that his anger made no difference to his parents, who continued to force him to babysit for his younger siblings even after Sam complained that he was missing out on social activities with his friends because he was often busy taking care of his siblings.

Suddenly, Sam realized that he had similar feelings towards his boss and his subordinates at work.  He never wanted to supervise employees, but his promotion, which included new responsibilities that he really liked, also included supervising three employees who were difficult.

Sam told his therapist that he often felt that he could be spending more time doing the parts of his job that he really liked if he didn't have to spend so much time "babysitting" for these subordinates, who were often late or didn't come to work.

Instead of spending more time on the projects that he enjoyed, he had to spend time having individual conferences with his subordinates and even more time writing them up.

Over time, Sam realized that, before he did the affect bridge work with his therapist, he was unaware of feeling angry and how his anger about his work connected to his earlier family experiences.

Although both situations felt similar to him, Sam realized that there was an important difference--whereas when he was a teenager he had no choice but to watch his siblings whenever his parents told him to, as an adult, he could speak to his boss about how unhappy he was with the supervisory aspects of his job.

Sam knew that he probably wouldn't have been able to get to the deeper feelings underneath his boredom as quickly if he and his therapist had not used a mind-body oriented approach.

Boredom as a Secondary Emotion: Discovering the Underlying Emotions in Therapy

A few weeks later, Sam met with his boss and asked him if they could restructure his job so he no longer had to supervise employees.  His boss listened attentively.  Then he told Sam that he was thinking of restructuring Sam's job because the company needed him to do more of the creative work.  He said he would reassign Sam's subordinates to two other supervisors.

In his therapy sessions Sam and his psychotherapist worked on the older issue related to his anger towards his parents using EMDR therapy, a therapy developed specifically for resolving traumatic experiences.

Boredom often masks unconscious feelings, such as anger, sadness and fear.

It's often difficult to get to the unconscious feelings that lie beneath boredom with talk therapy.  But using a mind-body oriented therapy, like clinical hypnosis, EMDR or Somatic Experiencing helps to get to the unconscious material so that it can be worked through.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you tend to experience boredom, you could benefit from thinking of boredom as being a secondary emotion that hides unconscious feelings (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

An experienced psychotherapist, who uses a mind-body oriented approach in therapy, can help you to discover the unconscious feelings that are being masked by the boredom so you can get to the root of the problem and work through it in therapy (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I have helped many clients to discover the unconscious feelings that are at the root of their problems.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.