I Am A Boring Person

A hallmark symptom of depression is known as “anhedonia,” or the inability to experience pleasure. When depressed clients come into the office I often ask about things they do for recreation. Very often the answer is “recently, nothing.” I then ask about what a client used to enjoy before the depression set in, as a client’s formerly pleasurable activities can be used as a rough measure of therapeutic progress.

Over the years I’ve noticed some clients, even when not depressed in a clinical sense, take a very passive “just get through the day approach.” They don’t look to thrive, just simply survive. Whether or not the meaning of life is to enjoy oneself or not isn’t my place to say but I do feel an obligation to help clients grab life by the horns. To that end, when clients are bogged down by the grind of daily life I often direct the conversation toward how they want to enjoy their time when not dealing with the regular hassles of day to day existence. Such was the case with a client whom I’ll call Ira, a late 30’s gentleman who came to therapy for what he called ‘a general malaise.’ Ira didn’t have what one might consider a bad life. He had a strong marriage, good job, healthy children, but he failed to capitalize on those things and use his day in a way that made him happy.

“Ira, where does your mind tend to go when you wake up in the morning?”

“Generally about what I need to do that day and what problems I’ll have to deal with.”

“Okay, so your day immediately begins with a negative tinge: what bad things will come my way? Is that right?”


“Definitely. That’s how it goes.”

“Well, although we can’t take away the normal hassles of everyday life I wonder what stops you from thinking about enjoyable things you have planned or tasks you want to accomplish that day.”

“During the week it’s difficult because of work.”

“Well we can certainly discuss how you can feel better about your job, but for now, how about the weekend?”

“Is that what you do? Think about fun things you want to do that day?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

“Like what?”

The topic of self-disclosure needs about 100 blog posts to be covered at least somewhat in depth, but I am considered by my peers much more liberal about discussing my life than other shrinks. I generally don’t have a problem sharing information, especially in this case where I can serve as a role model for how behavioral planning exercises can be of benefit. As soon as I was ready to speak, however, I drew a blank.

What do I do for fun?

“I’m sorry, did you ask what I do for fun?”

“Yes.”

Huh…I hadn’t thought of that so specifically as of late. What do I do for fun? Let’s see…I enjoy…wine. Wii. Working out. Those all start with ‘w.’ Is that a coincidence? I like hanging out with my friends. But they’re mostly Caucasian. Is that really ‘White friends’ then?

“I enjoy sports,” I finally said after what probably seemed like, and actually were, minutes.

“Watching them or playing them?” Ira asked.

Watching. Damnit!

“Mostly watching, but I play sometimes too.”

“Is that it?” Ira asked. “You watch sports all day?”

“Well I do enjoy a few things but they all seem to run together. I generally like to have a few friends come over and we play video games and drink wine.” Wow, who wouldn’t want my life? I’m like some sort of Pleasure Giant!

“Oh….kay,” Ira said, seeing me as some gaming geek with an alcohol problem.

“Maybe you could try that?” I said, brimming with no self-confidence.

“Right,” Ira said, no doubt wondering how quickly he could get to the bank to stop payment on the check he would soon be writing.

“I guess my personal anecdote on staving off depression and living a happy life isn’t much of a help,” I said, defeated like a pathetic Guitar Hero player who can’t get past ‘Rock and Roll All Night’ on Hard.

“You know, my wife has always been saying that we should take a trip to the Far East. You know, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam?”

I am aware of some of the countries that comprise the Far East. “Wow, that sounds great.”

Unlike my life.

“So,” Ira said, a bit of sour mood beginning to drip off his suit, “maybe a trip like that would be the thing. At least it would give me something to look forward to, more so than getting drunk with my friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons or whatever it is you do. Thanks Dr. Rob!”

The moral of the story: sometimes people need to see how lame your own life is to feel better about theirs. That’s why I’m such a successful therapist.

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26 Responses to “I Am A Boring Person”

  1. Blank says:

    Ahaha, that was a good post Dr. Rob.
    If it makes you feel any better, I almost lost the guitar battle with Lou on medium while I was helping my friends trying to beat the game..and I play on expert.

  2. Michelle says:

    Something to add to your ‘W’ list: writing for shrinktalk.net!

  3. Vincent says:

    I wonder exactly how much of human happiness comes from thinking about how much better their lives are compared to select others. I bet that general knowledge of the answer to that question would make the psychology field far more lucrative.

  4. Great post, Rob.
    One of your funniest, I think. You’re refining your writing style.

  5. Tina says:

    Ok, now your blog has made me clinically depressed. PLaying Wii while drinking with friends sounds like a damn fun evening.

  6. tashe says:

    How lame am I? I am the one who named our first band in Rock Band “Anhedonia”.
    I agree, great post, thou Pleasure Giant!!!

  7. Wayland says:

    The post and comments have both made me laugh and happy to do so. Or maybe I’m just coming down from my workout and shower. Man I feel good right now even though I don’t have the energy for anything. Rob…you rock man. Do you wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself, “You’re awesome,” like I do?

  8. Jordan says:

    What a dick. Not everyone has to go freakin’ Asia to be happy.

  9. Jenna says:

    This is hillarious, Rob!

  10. Honorius says:

    BLOGGING ROB! YOU ENJOYY BLOGGING!!!
    Hum…yes, good post.

  11. Maggy says:

    You always make me laugh DocRob. ^___^ Your life sounds like my life. lol. And way too many people I know. Are you sure you’re not someone I actually know?

  12. Borderline Betty says:

    “Flossing?”
    Well, I suppose that finding pleasure in little, daily things like, even…flossing…is what pleasure can be about. It’s about trying to cultivate a meditative stance of non-judgement. You try to be present in your life, exactly as it is. You allow the good feelings, bad ones, and all the in-between ones, too. I like this approach, maybe because I find Trying to have a good time is too hard. Or, even if I Am having a good time, I cling to it too much, fear the passing of it (and compare myself to others who are having a good time)… so, I’ve resigned myself to Not having a good time in life. (Now, I feel alot more freedom to sink into that deadly morass of spiraling, unrelenting depression that’s always beckoning). Well, all kidding aside…
    Seriously, though, I seem to have a bit more peace of mind and contentment with this approach of acceptance and trying to be present in my life – as it is. Of course, it’s hard to maintain. Anger, pain, disappointment…they are all there, and they can take over. Or, too much (pursuit of) pleasure can take over, which is also troubling in it’s own way.

  13. Chris says:

    You have ads running for Dianetics?

  14. Dr. Rob says:

    I have no clue why the Dianetics people would want to advertise on this site.

  15. Robin says:

    Dr Rob, you must love all sorts of activities!

  16. Lola says:

    As a reasonably attractive single woman who enjoys video games, good wine and relaxing on the weekends, I see nothing wrong with the way you are spending yours.
    I wouldn’t have minded going to ComicCon in San Diego last week though…
    The way I see it, I’ve had enough excitement to last me for a few years. So I’m due some nice relaxing quiet “me” time. And I’m not gonna apologize for being boring!
    Fly your geek flag high my friend!

  17. Amber says:

    Your life is only lame if YOU see it that way Dr. Rob!

  18. Blinky says:

    I would never be able to keep a patient/doctor relationship if my doc played as many games as I did. Maybe some day but certainly not now.
    I’ve been playing since I was out of the hospital (since I was a year old). God bless my eye doctor for saying it would help my RoP, hahaha!

  19. Gelfling says:

    Having watched D&D (and the Red Sox winning that first world series, but more D&D than baseball) be a major motivator for a loved one recover from a 95 % fatal cancer, under no circumstance would i bash ANY hobby, no matter how socially unacceptable.

    LARPing, Cosplay, MUDs/MUSHes, Filking, WoW in moderation, mating rare tropical fish, growing unusual orchids, dog agility training – doesn’t matter what the hobby is, they all expand metal acuity, knowledge, and get a person out of the house. And ultimately, i’m cool with that no matter how “nerdy” the hobby 🙂

  20. Oh, Doc, you’re hardly the pinacle of lame.

  21. Valarie Klatte says:

    Hi Dr. Rob, thanks this article. This post really helps me. If you don’t mind, I’ll quote some of your statements in my site. Thanks.

  22. Annie says:

    Watching sports is, in my opinion, a bit boring, but what you find entretaining doesn’t really have to entratain someone else. I do ballet, and I love it, but some people might think otherwise. It’s funny how blunt is client to tell you so.

  23. Tippy says:

    Your clients are mean to you, Dr. Rob 🙂

  24. Jade says:

    Reading your blog entries makes me feel a little less neurotic about myself and others as I realize we all have our problems and how they are exacerbated by our internal monologues.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I feel compelled to post this that shed no enlightenment on depression what so ever. Total crap

  26. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous: As a depressed person, I found this helpful because it reminds me that often we compare ourselves against unrealistic and inaccurate perceptions. It also serves as a springboard to discuss how anyone finds fulfillment. Sometimes it can be more fulfilling to be with friends in your own home as opposed to a trip to the far east when you’re just going through the motions.

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