The word “leisure phobia” was coined by Rafael Santandreu, a Spanish psychologist. It describes the fear of free time. What is that, you ask yourself now? It’s one of those modern day problems that got bigger without the world even realizing it. By the time people started seeking psychological counseling with doubts about how to enjoy their free time, the conflict was already considerable. Affected people were obsessed with their jobs and careers or used them to avoid problems they did not want to face.
Apparently there are many people all over the world these days who feel a certain panic when they have to actively spend their free time. When you have free time for which no event or activity is planned. When they have completed all their tasks and have a lot of time left that they “couldn’t use meaningfully”.
“Leisure will be the biggest problem because there are great doubts that humanity can sustain itself.”
How is it possible that we have developed a fear of free time? Our parents and grandparents saw it as a gift, a privilege. Free time was time off work, time to rest. She never aroused dislike. The exact opposite was the case: free time was valued and longed for. What has happened there?
Fear of free time and boredom
Everything seems to indicate that in our modern age boredom is being ascribed cardinal sin status. Those who suffer from recreational phobia feel panic at the mere possibility of being bored. This feeling seems unbearable for them and creates panic attacks.
Regarding their free time, those affected develop fantasies that are not very clearly defined. It is as if these individuals suspected that something terrible was going to happen to them. As if the element of non-working time was something unknown and terrible that they would rather not be confronted with. People who feel this way despair when there is nothing they can do. They see leisure as a formidable danger. If we could draw what they feel, we would paint them in a large black hole that threatens to destroy them in its depths.
The symptoms of recreational phobia
The clearest sign that someone has a recreational phobia is fear. This feeling of fear, this fear of free time, is expressed very strongly when the affected person suddenly opens up a time window in which they have not planned anything. When you look straight in the eye of free time, or a weekend for which you haven’t made any plans. This feeling of fear can increase even further before going on vacation.
These people are very much shaped by ideologies about efficiency and productivity. Under all circumstances, her priorities are successes and achievements, not her luck . The worst part is that they rate their successes quantitatively, not qualitatively. You can always hear from them how many tasks they have completed and what goals they have achieved. Very rarely do they mention the real, qualitative value of these services.
It is also serious business that those affected try to transfer their lifestyles to their children. They are the kind of parents who sign up their children for extra classes after school, for any language, dance, and exercise classes they can find. They want their children to be able to speak at least two foreign languages by the age of 10 and to be able to play the piano perfectly by the age of 13. But they also teach their children to be fearful. Unfortunately, these parents pass on the idea, the fear of free time, that any time not filled with productive learning would be the worst of all monsters.
Long live free time! Long live boredom! Long live free time!
Rafael Santandreu, the father of the concept of leisure phobia, says we need to learn to get bored. There is nothing wrong with boredom. There is nothing terrible about spending an hour looking out the window and thinking about nonsense. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it is even necessary, because it brings our life into balance. It is good to work and be interested in something. But it is just as good to rest and to be bored sometimes. Santandreu also points out that an idle mind is more productive. He even says that “the ideal proportion is one hour of work and 23 hours of free time”.
Remember, lions only hunt once a week. And that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in his spare time in Castile. His work as a tax collector has brought him little. Instead, the result of his free time ushered in a transformation of the language and universal literature as we know it today.
So it would be good for us to regain the ability to contemplate landscapes while walking through a city. We have to shift down a gear, walk through life at a slower pace. It is better to do a few things for pleasure than do many while stressed. It is better for us to devote the short time we have on earth to loving and creating rather than writing reports and meeting deadlines.
Fortunately, there is no sin in doing nothing. Boredom is not an epidemic. In fact, it is exactly the opposite – doing nothing for a while makes us better people.