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Idleness phobia: here's why we can't be idle

Spoiler: it deals with fear of the future and hypercontrol mania

Idleness phobia: here's why we can't be idle  Spoiler: it deals with fear of the future and hypercontrol mania

"He does not seem to me a free man who does not idle from time to time."

It was Cicero who said this, anticipating ante litteram a widespread "re-entry anxiety" that particularly surfaces between August and September for many of us. The enforced stop of the summer break, in fact, would make manifest the inability to manage the many free hours (finally) available. In a society that puts everyone's productivity and work efficiency first, it becomes recriminatory to have scraps of free time, from which arise deep feelings of guilt for fear of feeling irrelevant or, even worse, useless. A Spanish psychologist, Raphael Santandreu, calls it idleness phobia: the fear of being left doing nothing, the empty schedule anxiety we fight with tight appointments, the postmodern horror vacui of doing nothing. Life that doesn't let you breathe has become reassuring; it is the sudden stop that is frightening, the interruption of the frantic race for success and accomplishment. We understood this better with Covid. I make therefore I am: a loop.

Those who suffer from idlophobia need to be busy all the time and fill themselves with commitments they don't even want to do because they can't stand to be face to face with time running out without a task to complete. It has to do with fear of the future and a mania for hypercontrol. The main symptoms include: anxiety, compulsive scheduling of appointments with many days' notice, and the manifestation of one's accomplishments. The time between commitments also tends to be filled with actions that have become so much a part of our daily routine that we don't even realize it: compulsive social scrolling sessions, podcasts in the background, Netflix series that don't really interest us.

Celebrities also suffer from idlophobia and try to find ad hoc solutions to counteract this sense of anxiety: Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, practices Dopamine Fasting (intermittent dopamine fasting), which is very much in vogue in Silicon Valley and consists of isolating oneself from the world and from any stimulus/satisfaction for 24H in order to stimulate creativity. Selena Gomez practices Digital Detox by turning off her cell phone for a day or an entire weekend. Kendall Jenner engages in Sound Bath in her private garden: an auditory stimulation session with natural sounds in combo with breathing exercises. Cindy Crawford, on the other hand, has instituted a kind of "Me Time": a time dedicated only to oneself in which one does what one most prefers by isolating oneself from the outside world and perhaps hanging a "do not disturb" sign outside the door. 

So, the remedy to idlophobia would seem to be idleness itself: doing less to deal with boredom, choosing quality time in favor of qualitative rather than quantitative well-being. A few pointers for this September: buy a smaller schedule and allow yourself only one obligatory commitment a day, limit social time with app time blocking, impose on yourself a few minutes of "empty" time a day. Do you like to watch the sunset? Try doing it every evening (but without posting it in stories).