Monday, 25 May 2015

Angst, Ennui and Weltschmerz

Angst, Ennui and Weltschmerz 

I suffer from anxiety and depression that are brought on from a mixture of reasons. However one of the reasons is caused from me being bored: I am bored with what's going on around me; I am bored with what I am learning at school; I am bored of my steps; I am bored of Belfast; I am bored of television; I am bored of movies; I feel unsatisfied and anxious about trying to find something that I will not find boring. The current problem is what should I do with my life? What career path should I follow that will not lead to boredom. I even considered joining the army because at least it would be exciting! These feelings I get are known in philosophy as "Angst", "Ennui" and "Weltschmerz". I shall explain:
  1. Angst - anxiety and dissatisfaction brought on by over-thinking. For example: you may worried about something, but what you are worried about is irrational.  
  2. Ennui - Boredom and alienation of the world around you. For example: when one finds their job is too tedious and are then frustrated by this. 
  3. Weltchmerz - despair at the fact that humanity always does and will fall short of expectation. For example: When someone does not perform as well as expected. 
I found a blog which gives a more in depth definitions,  if you are interested:

These three feelings are all relative to each other, as they cause a chain reaction or butterfly effect; it is a vicious circle which can be viewed as self-destructive, self-indulgent and ego-centic. However I shall mainly focus on Ennumi and Weltchmerz .I shall now explain how this has occurred in my academic life as an example. 

Academic Ennui 

Anyone who attended secondary school with me, knew one thing about me: I hardly ever did my homework or bothered doing any sort of studying and actually quite often I would forget  I even had homework or that there was a test. 8-1 hated me because if they ever lost the class merit it was because of me!  Similarly, anyone who went to university with me knew one thing: I hardly ever attended a lecture, for example when I went to ask questions about a past paper to one of my lecturer's in my final year, she asked me "who are you? are you in my class". I told a white lie and said I had been at a few at the start... I had been to one, it clashed with my dancing class. Traveling 2 and half hours there and back to an Irish dancing class seemed more important to me. 

Part of this is due to Asperger's: I am quite disorganized. However another reason for this was because I was bored in school. I knew I was quite academic, so I didn't get any satisfaction in studying to get a grade I knew I could possibly achieve: If you know you can achieve something, the accomplishment doesn't seem that great. I always aimed to do as little effort as possible to just achieve an average mark. In my school reports, my attainment grades were usually higher than my effort grades, quite often they would read something similar to: "Adam is good at this subject, when he feels like it." 

This attitude of mine did not always go to plan however, for example my GCSE's. I thought I would just wing them and get straight As - it didn't work out, I wasn't just quite as smart as what I thought I was. I was too lazy for coursework, instead of reediting my corrections, I would just reprint what I had done and hand it back. I never did my reading homework, so when asked to highlight the important points I just highlighted random parts of it (to make it seem like I had read it). I remember the night before my religion GCSE I decided to try and do some studying. I took out my notes and realized I couldn't read or make sense of any of them: my file was such a mess and my scripture was all wrinkled and highlighted randomly. My insomnia was very bad at the time so religion class seemed like a great opportunity to have a nap. I decided to give up and watch the movie "Carrie" instead. I somehow managed to pass all of them. However, the straight As didn't happen, and thus I fell short of my expectation and this lead to Weltschermz.

During my A-levels I learnt the art of cramming. I wanted to go to university, and I discovered if I crammed three days before each exam I would usually get what I was aiming for. I found that this gave me a huge adrenaline rush and I enjoyed this a lot.  This continued at university, studying still didn't interest me I use to leave all my essays or studying to the very last minute, I was the ultimate procrastinator. This meant I could have time to do my obsessions Irish dancing, poker, clubbing and "gyming".   But this adrenaline rush of leaving all my deadlines and studying to the last minute solved my ennui, I felt on top of the world! It is like Sisyphus in the myth of Sisyphus.

Lindsay Lohan: The Perfect Example of Ennui

Although Lindsay Lohan is now the butt of many jokes, for example my article on her and the Human Rights Law: . Nevertheless I do not think it is possibly to argue that she was (and hopefully still is!) incredibly talented. Look at her in "The Parent Trap" nobody really appreciates her great acting skills in it. Some movie snobs laugh at "Mean Girls", however it was very critically acclaimed, it is one of the most Iconic movies of the Millennium if not the most; it is arguably a "Classic".

However, what happens to Lindsay Lohan after this movie? She is bored: ennui starts to haunt her! So she starts drinking, taking drugs and lives the ultimate hedonistic life style. Nothing gives her pleasure anymore, as she knows she can achieve it! She creates drama to add excitement to her life, maybe not directly on purpose, but sub-consciously she is. It's like she is playing a game: Can I get away with this? She is addicted to drama! She is doing anything for an adrenaline rush, because she is bored! It is the same reason people have affairs, they are bored and they love the excitement of potentially getting caught. 

What happens as a result of this. She messes up, she eventually gets caught out and she is yet to reach her full potential  thus Weltschmerz! She could of won an oscar by now, but instead the amount of times she has been in jail and rehab outweighs the amount of awards she has won. Although she seems to have settled down in the last year or two, she seems to be getting her life back on track now.


Similarly to Lindsay Lohan, I am bored and as a result I haven't achieved my full potential yet and am confused as to what it is. I am filled with angst:
  • Why am I here?
  • What purpose do I have?
  • What career do I want? 
  • Do I want to live? 
  • What is the point in living? 
  • What will make me happy? 
  • What will stop this ennui that haunts me? 

My granny use to say to me "the world is not against you, Adam!", sometimes I feel that it is: I feel like Sisyphus. My granny also use to sing to me Que Sera Sera (Whatever will be will be), the lyrics tell you not to worry because you have no control and can't see into the future. But when I look into the future all I see is misery, despair, anger and frustration and I have no control over this, or do I? 

I am in despair: how will I ever get myself out of this negative cycle? There is only one way negative downward thinking leads to. It is not healthy, but I seem to have no control over it, but yet the existentialist in me is able to explain the cause of it. Will I ever find a job and a life that I am content with, will I ever be satisfied, will I ever be happy? 

What do you think after reading this? Do you think I am just a young man who is bored, frustrated over-thinking everything while trying to figure the world out? Or do you think I am just like Winona Ryder in Girl Interrupted: A lazy, self-indulgent little boy who is driving himself crazy. 


  1. Interesting read... I often feel like this, but didn't know how to articulate it so succinctly. I don't think you're winona ryder in this one Adam. More like brooklyn Beckham balancing opportunities

  2. Thank-you whoever you are! Hopefully I will find the right balance before it's too late.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Adam,

    Here are some thoughts on what helped me, as I suffered in the same way.

    Firstly do not be so hard on yourself. It is normal to question. It is normal to suffer. All people do, but most don’t have the courage to begin the journey of discovery that can lead you to a better place.

    I needed to replace my negative habit patterns. This is very difficult to do as you have practised them your whole life, but it is very rewarding if you can. In order to begin this process I underwent psychotherapy for two years. It allowed me to recognise and understand the thinking patterns that held me back. I learned to spot the triggers that put me into these undesired states. When the state was triggered I countered it with a new habit. I would go running, and while I ran I would repeat positive affirmations out loud. This stopped my mind from wandering and changed my habit instantly. Most people opt for drugs and alcohol as it is an easier option.

    The power of positive affirmations cannot be overstated. You need to pick ones that are personal and work for you. Then you got to repeat them out loud all day long, every chance you get. You can lower your voice and whisper to yourself when others pass. They do work, but it takes time. The changes will happen without you really noticing. You will notice your life beginning to change if you stick with it. A good example of one is – “every day in every way I grow stronger and stronger” or “I am moving my life forward”. All affirmations have to be in the positive, so should start with “I am” . As Emmerson said, “You become what you think about all day long”, so the more you practice the affirmations the better.

    It is natural to wonder what to do with your life. We are lucky in that we have so many options these days. The down side is that it can be hard to pick one of them. I spent years wondering instead of doing. Take the time to think of what you enjoy and then pick something to aim for eg. If you enjoy reading and writing you might want to become a teacher. Work towards this every day and make it part of your affirmations. You can always reassess, but once you have decided on what you are aiming for keep going. Listlessness grows when you have no goal.

    I don’t believe in God, but it is important to take time to connect with your true self. This can come through prayer or meditation. It is important to get out into nature and to connect and ground yourself. For me there is a very peaceful place that I enjoy visiting. When there I close my eyes, breath and let my senses experience my surroundings. I practice this every time I go there. Then when something happens that upsets me or triggers a negative habit, I close my eyes and imagine I am in that place. It helps. It is not easy, but does work the more you practice it. Check out mindfulness meditation. There are many sources online including mediation while walking etc. Look for Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat Zinn.

    Keep reading and studying about the mind. Some books I would recommend are “The Road Less Travelled” by M Scott Peck, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel. “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello. There are many other books and in time you will find the ones that suit you best. Check out Youtube!

    The key to a happy is life is to always grow and contribute. Always striving and helping others.

    Be grateful. Take the time every day to give thanks for the things you do have. There always someone else worse off than you are.

    Finally do remember that mastery of the self is very difficult and takes a life time, but it is a worthwhile endeavour.

    Never lose faith and remember that amazing people are amazing because they have an amazing psychology

    Hope some of this helps

    PS: I ended up on your site when googling ennui. Just felt I had to mail something as I spent the first 40 years of my life in a current state of ennui.

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