Learning to be lazy.

April 29, 2012

in Miscellaneous, Personal

Up to about the age of five or six we are well programmed to learn rules. Therapists call them introjects because we swallow them whole. We learn simple instructions and rules which then become automatic – or we don’t. In which case we become delinquent, and after six it’s probably too late to do anything about that.

So, there we are. Full of useful rules, and some which are not useful. Your parents’ and teachers’ rules are not necessarily what you want to hang on to, but introjects are horribly hard to modify. They are the source of all those ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ that people assert unselfconsciously with all the confidence in the world that they are stating some absolute truth. And persecute other people with in oblivious self-righteousness. Useful in a five year old: problematic sometimes in a fifty year old.

So it would be good to reduce the power of some of them. I think. I have a little list…

The one I have in mind right now is ‘don’t just sit there doing nothing’. Relentless useful activity was the order of the day in my parent’s house and things like reading were not in the useful category. Which today means that there are times when it’s OK to sit and read, but they are more circumscribed than I would wish and if Charles starts rushing around being busy, which is his natural mode in life, the old message kicks into life and my peace is gone.

I need to begin the tackle this. One of the best ways can be to get it right into awareness as an automatic rule by laying it relentlessly on other people. This will make you very unpopular – best to tell them what you’re doing and why..But still – keep doing it. The point is to keep noticing the rule and questioning the rule.

So now I have to catch Charles sitting around “doing nothing..”




Susan May 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

I agree with Sally about the work ethic….. have to get the jobs done before I can settle down to reaading and hobbies. the trouble is that some of my reading is work and my hobbies are pring up becaise I take them too seriouly.

anne May 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Pring up?? Reading purely for pleasure is different. And it’s ‘doing nothing’. We must learn to sin, Sue!!!

Annoné Butler May 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I know exactly how you feel. I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book. But once an adult there is always so much to “do”. I have to constantly fight the idea that I have to accomplish all my tasks before I can allow myself to read. Because there is always something to be done. The rain has been great for this because I can tell myself that the garden will have to wait till it dries out a bit!

anne May 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm

You are so right – we will all die with an unfinished to do list…

sally April 29, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Another interesting blog, Anne.

According to Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler Academy, we’ve got the puritan Protestant work ethic to blame for this little introject you’re talking about. Before the Reformation, we used to sit around playing lutes, drinking mead, and generally chilling out apparently. There was no guilt attached to idling around – it was probably considered deserved after toiling fields all day…!

My partner is an avid reader and will happily wile away hours at the weekend ploughing through the stack of books he’s always got next to his bed, or the sofa. This used to infuriate me, as I was always someone who thought you ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to be doing something or have something planned for every weekend…but over time he’s had a lovely calming effect on me, and I now have learnt how to really chill out at the weekends.

But I’ve found that I’m only able to do this as long as we’ve done our ‘chores’ Saturday morning/early afternoon – this is a hangover from childhood, as I remember my parents were always working in the home Saturday morning (cleaning cupboards, mowing the lawn, cleaning the car, etc) then sat down for ‘a nice piece of cake and a cup of tea’ in the afternoons. This is probably good basic discipline – obviously housework needs to be done, as does food shopping, but I’m very content now just to sit down and read, play chess, etc without feeling an ounce of guilt!

Trouble is, there’s another factor here – Twitter and Facebook! No sooner have I settled into a good book, then give it half an hour or so, and I’m itching to check my iPhone. So am I truly relaxing…? Hmmm, maybe not entirely…

I’ve decided that the next step is to get into meditation and Mindfulness – to at least once a week turn the lounge into a candle-lit, Twitter-free zone, with Buddhist chant music the only thing hitting my senses!

anne April 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Yes! I am sure it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. I have heard similar of our hunting and gathering ancestors – loads of time to sit around chatting and doing other equivalents of twitter.(less children too before agriculture made them so useful.They were careful not to have too many if they were nomadic at all and had to transport them around..).

And yes, actually, social media and internet do introduce a new form of restlessness. Let me know how your meditation and chanting go.

Sally April 30, 2016 at 7:15 am

Hello Sally, another Sally here. Maybe it’s a Sally thing but you have just described my life! Lol
I too, was brought up to believe that Saturday mornings were for choring, and that you only deserved your afternoon break if you’d done said chores! My husband is an avid reader and as I write this in bed (early Saturday morning) I am planning on cutting the lawn, while my husband says he’s tired after the week and just wants to read all day!
He says that I need to learn the art of meditation and to be happy just doing nothing (which is odd, as one of my favorite things is to stare out of the window and daydream) but this rarely happens. I too, have had plans to turn my lounge into a chill out zone with candles and hippy chanting music, but it never seems to happen!
Ps. I love that Tom Hodgkinson book. I believe that we’re on the edge of a cultural shift – that people want the Good Life early – no more working hard all your life to retire at 65/70. I think people want either early retirement or part time working/flexible working from a much earlier age these days.

anne April 30, 2016 at 9:59 am

I hope you’re right – then we could all take lessons from each other about how to enjoy it.

Paul Steer April 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Oh God I recognise that self righteousness ! I am a ponderer, I love sitting, dreaming and thinking. Sue is the busy one, and I still feel overwhelming guilt when I see her being busy, and like you I then cannot relax. We have become more tolerant though of each others nature with time, and I try harder to see the things that ‘need ‘doing. Work life is so rule orientated that home and garden is a sanctuary, its when that sanctuary is turned into workplace with workplace – like rules that the tensions start. There is still peace to be had though if you seek it.

anne April 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Not easy, is it? It will help me I think if I can reduce the power of my own introject and stop feeling as if Charles is responsible for making me feel guilty. It’s me, not him.

But great thing about him is that it really isn’t him. He seems fine with me. (as far as THAT is concerned…)

John April 29, 2012 at 11:54 am

I find doing nothing both mentally exhausting and actually impossible for, having made a decision to do nothing, I am then continually pushing “you ought to do this ……” thoughts out of my brain. So I think doing something is less tiring and more relaxing.

(You have an interesting book collection.)

anne April 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm

There are some people for whom reading is not actually doing nothing. It is them I try to emulate.

My book collection will bring back happy memories for some!

John April 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Do you grow rosemary in your garden in hope of a nod in the right direction and subsequent elevation?

Reading is definitely not doing nothing. It is continuing your education in some way, enriching your mind. Even Noddy will remind you of the value of friendship. And reading adverts is definitely better than experiencing the wounds when processing the product of that reading (my finger still hasn’t healed) 🙂

anne April 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm


Note to self: must do a post soon on how some people can maintain resentments for weeks!!!

John April 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The herb. Looks like “Rosemary at St Anne’s” to me 🙂 On the right, next to Noddy.

I’m not resentful, just careless – bought some more which is waiting to be installed.

Charles April 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

You won’t catch me today as I am at work all day. Try me tomorrow. xx

anne April 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I know! Relaxing is sadly easier without you – but tomorrow will be a work day for both of us..

anne April 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Ah, yes. Girl’s name in this case I believe. Everedge did all right in the end out of you then..

Previous post:

Next post: