What's the use?
July 26, 2006 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Don't roll your eyes but I think my soul, if there is such a thing, may be empty

My wife has brought it to my attention that I don't have much going on inside that is for me. If we're not together, I really don't take pleasure out of anything. Together we really and honestly enjoy movies, and eating out. We laugh, joke and are together pretty much constantly. There is no one else I have any interest in really any level. I recognize that can make me sound like an obsessive-stalker type but that isn't true. Left to my own devices, OTOH, I sit quietly and stare at the wall, eating whatever is handy out of the packaging. I have no hobbies because I can't see the point of them. For example, I'd probably make excellent model airplanes but wouldn't know what to do with them. With nothing to do with them, I would wonder what the point of the wasted effort was. Professionally, I muddle. I work when I have to and take little pride in it. I like being a go-to guy at work but truthfully I ask, why bother? What's the point? Except for working to support and make my wife happy, it is like brushing my teeth or going to the bathroom- just a necessary activity.

This question arises because my wife thinks it isn't healthy for me to have no life outside our relationship. She is similar but to a much lesser degree. She does seek out fun and friendships outside of our relationship. Her concern is what happens to the survivor when the other dies or something. In my case she thinks I may become suicidal. In truth, I might. I've always wondered what happens to the ant or bee that gets stuck in your car and escapes when you get to your destination far from the hill or the hive. Do they just shut down?

Anyhow, my question is this. Why do you do anything for you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What animates you? What is your point? What makes you live for you?

Please no simple one-word answers like love/kids/jeebus/ponies. I just want to know what is in your soul.
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (60 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It may not have occured to you but these are all classic signs of depression. You can avoid the issue by talking about "souls" all you like. Getting help for my depression fixed my "soul" if you like.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:12 PM on July 26, 2006

my god that is depressing reading.

Maybe not a one word answer, but how can the world hold not an inkling or curiousity that keeps your attention?

This sounds like depression of some sort. How about going to see a professional and exploring why you feel this way? I mean life is short and we do only get one chance at it. After reading your question, I can't help but feel a tad bit sorry for you.

I'm sorry if that comes across as a rude thing to say.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2006

you beat me to it Kenny Boy!
posted by Funmonkey1 at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2006

See this and maybe this.
posted by patr1ck at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2006

yup, depression to a T.

And I like to think the ants and bees are welcomed into new hives/hills and revered for their worldly wisdom.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:22 PM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

To answer your question: There are 3 main things that motivate me in life. Here they are in order of importance: God, Family, Self. God and my religious beliefs are, to me, the most important thing in life. Seriously, why wouldn't my god be the most important thing to me. I do things that he tells me to do. Secondly, my family, including my girlfriend. I do thing for them because it helps them, and makes them happy. Lastly, I do things for myself so that I am not bored out of my mind in the podunk town I live in. I ride horses, I bike, I fix/tear up things. I hope this is what you were looking for.

And I want to second what has already been said. Go get some help.
posted by tdreyer1 at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2006

I just get a kick out of the stuff I do. That's why I do those things. I get a mental thrill when I do great work. I feel a literal physical happiness when I'm with my girlfriend. And that's the normal way to be.

I used to feel like you in every single way. Couldn't see the point in anything -- work, friends, whatever. I thought I'd realised something big and clever about the world -- we all die eventually, so it's all pointless. Couldn't have been more wrong.

It's a disease called depression, and there is something physically wrong with your brain. Many people find that they can cure themselves of it using a trick called counselling.

Most importantly, it's nothing wrong with YOU. If you broke your legs and you couldn't walk, you wouldn't worry about your 'mind' lacking the willpower to walk. Similarly, if your brain is broken and isn't giving you the correct feedback, you shouldn't worry about your 'soul' being empty.
posted by chrismear at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2006

Dude. Therapy. Seriously. You don't have to live this way.
posted by sugarfish at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2006

I can well understand that a hobby where the result is a rather pointless piece of decoration might not be for you. I'm the same way.

While I have some of the same issues as you, I do make sure that I pick hobbies where the result at the end of each is something that serves a purpose. I can't answer what hobby you should find that does this, but it's a question you could answer yourself.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2006

Important note: There's no such thing as a soul.

Important note two: I'm not a doctor and this is not a diagnosis, but depression is a big problem, and the feelings you describe are among the symptoms.

I'm trying to improve people's lives, and make a positive difference in the sum totals of knowledge and beauty and happiness on this planet. I'd like to leave behind something enduring and good, even if only in the memories of people close to me. Basically, even if it's only in tiny ways, I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I entered it.
posted by box at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2006

To make a minor point, the "purpose" of any hobby is the pleasure it gives you. There need not be, nor often is, any "higher" purpose. Every human being is "allowed" personal pleasure, in even the meanest philosophical universe. Else there is no Hell to fear.

If you like to build model airplanes, it does not follow that you need fly them. I have a friend who has $40,000 worth of flyable hardware hanging from the ceiling of his garage, and the majority of them have never seen free flight, although any one of them can fly, with fresh batteries for the radios, and a bit of naptha in their tiny tanks. And there is not a speck of dust on any of them, and some of the biplanes are perfect WW I 1/16 replicas, posed in eternal dogfights.

My friend is quietly happy out in his garage, carving balsa, and covering wings, 3 or 4 nights a week.

Me? I finger pick an old Martin D-28 when the spirit moves me. What's the use? No use, at all, I'm proud to say. It's just fun.
posted by paulsc at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2006

dysthymia (a form of depression.)

You don't have to feel sad to be depressed.

Go get some help.

(and don't rule out God while you are at it but that's another post altogether.)
posted by konolia at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2006

You sound a bit like me when I was in the depths of my depression. I still feel a bit like that sometimes, especially when you talk about how you really do have fun going to movies and out to eat...I really do love hanging out with my fiance, watching movies together, playing video games together, talking a lot. But it takes a lot more effort for me to find things that bring me joy on my own. I can name things I could do - painting, writing, cleaning the apartment, going for a walk, but then immediately sigh and think "Oh, I don't care, what's the use!"

It's something I'm continuing to work on, and I'm doing so with a lot of help. And it's not really that easy. But I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It is a long road to feel better, but I think the fact that you posted & are reaching out for answers means that you do care enough about yourself and your life to try and get better. Your soul is not empty and your life is not worthless. Depression is an illness and it's not a personal fault or a necessary way to live. Please talk to your doctor about this.
posted by tastybrains at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2006

The movies that you and your wife enjoy watching and the restaurants you enjoy eating at together are creations made by someone. What might you make for someone else's enjoyment? You and your wife could embark on something together, and when you're alone you could work on aspects of it in lieu of wall-staring.

I am right with you on the seeming pointlessness of collector-style hobbies. Other types might suit you, though. Physical-activity hobbies help keep you healthy so that you can live longer with your wife. Gardening can be healthful, can save money (for trips to new cities for an overnight?), and can lead to cooking projects which are also fun to do with the wife. Making music/movies/art is entertaining for others and helps keep your neurons firing.

Personally, my soul is comprised of curiosity and a desire to create stuff that affects other people. If I was the bee let off in a new location, I'd try to join the local hive (i.e. make friends). If there wasn't one, I'd start one. If there were no other living things around to hive out with me, I'd log onto the bee internet and research how to make some royal jelly product and get into perfecting that. Or I'd fly around and around and then draw little maps of the area in pollen.
posted by xo at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2006

Yup, sounds like depression (from another one who's been there, done that). You might not feel like doing it for yourself, but please think about your wife. It must be a burden on her for you to not have anything else outside of you. She cares about you and loves you and wants you to be happy. If you can't/won't do it for you, please do it for her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

The word that comes to mind here is anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure. However, you clearly enjoy movies. You should take that further and start a movie blog or write reviews. Hell, I'm looking for some good movies right now, what do you recommend?
I would say, look for simple pleasures in life first. It can be something as basic as playing an arcade game or eating watermelon outside. A big part of adulthood is remembering how to play and joke around. You are sawing away at life, but you just need to stop and sharpen the saw.
posted by mattbucher at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2006

I'm with patr1ck. Even if there is some kind of depression there, you need to get interested in the big questions. Other than love/kids/Jeebus/ponies, I like to know what makes (and made) things tick. So I read history, biography. I go to historic sites and museums. When I go someplace new I need to know how it came to be this way, how it evolved. I research my family history, my cultural history. I turn off the highway to find out where the side road goes. I could make model airplanes, too, but yeah, what's the point. I like to know stuff, figure things out, ask questions. And I like to own things, have things around, that relate to subjects I've studied and places I've been to -- books, artworks, etc. I wouldn't have a designer decorate my house because the stuff I keep around all needs to have personal history and value.
posted by beagle at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2006

Also, I realize that I didn't really answer your question.

Why do you do anything for you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What animates you? What is your point? What makes you live for you?

I don't know what my point is or why I'm here. But I keep going because I remember that I used to feel very vibrant and full of hope and awe at life. I try not to take on too much to make myself feel overwhelmed (which would make me feel even more hopeless and depressed), and reward myself for doing the things I have to do with things that I actually want to do. Right now, the things I want to do seem limited to quiet time reading a good book or going out for a nice meal, but there are some simple pleasures out there. I'm trying to work under the idea that it's ok if the things that bring you happiness don't always fit into some grand scheme or greater purpose, and that right now my purpose is to take care of myself and the people who I love, and to stop pressuring myself to be perfect and to know exactly what I should be doing with my life.
posted by tastybrains at 12:42 PM on July 26, 2006

Pretty much what tdreyer1 said above. Having a strong sense of faith, almost everything I do comes (or should come) from my love of God. That doesn't mean I am God obsessed (as muslims are usually called) - just that I derive a pleasure from prayers, helping others, sex, etc., through a thankfulness to God. I believe that the pleasure I experience has an added purposeful dimension that a person without faith may not experience, and is probably what gives me hope and direction. I feel connected to the soul (though not always considerate towards it), and try to live in concordance with what works well for it - praying, knowledge (almost a necessary obligation in my faith), having good relations with people.

I am not saying that you should necessarily take up organized faith, but do consider things that may give you more spiritual grounding rather than just hobbies that are more about occupying time, without giving you an overall sense of purpose.
posted by raheel at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2006

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

*puts "I AM A DOCTOR ON THE INTERNETS" T-shirt on*

this question, as other colleagues have stated above, is a classic symptom of depression. you might very well suffer from , at the very least, clinical depression.

there's nothing to be ashamed of and, lucky for you, in recent years there are several medications available to people in your situation. they may very well improve your moods quite dramatically. but in order to get a prescription, not to mention a more professional evaluation of your symptoms, you'll have to go to a real doctor's.
posted by matteo at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2006

I love how "Dude, go get therapy" is the most common answer you'll ever see on askme. Whether or not is answers your question.

To your actual question:Why do you do anything for you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What animates you? What is your point? What makes you live for you?

I've been studying yoga and meditation, and reading and learning about eastern principles, and have found great solace in them.

I don't know about you, but I'd like to see more answers as to what makes people tick - as a general curiosity!
posted by delladlux at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2006

I don't think you are necessarily depressed, but if the people above me are saying things that ring true, then by all means take care of it. I think you've lost some of the joy of life - and that's not the same as depression.

I like to discover new things, to make people happy, to play with my puppy. I try to remind myself to enjoy the process of things rather than just focusing on the end result - all of life is a process, the proverbial journey.

I too have questioned "what's the point?" - and I don't know the answer.

How about if you tried some new activities, to see if anything ends up being something you *do* really enjoy?
posted by KAS at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2006

Right now this is what is in my soul. Sorry for the glib, non-philosophical answer but to answer this question with a cerebral metaphysical response would be to deny our underlying complex chemistry reality.
posted by zaebiz at 1:11 PM on July 26, 2006

Although i agree with many of the other posts, there is little point in repeating them.

I would like to add a small suggestion to the conversation though, that extends from a few of the previous answers - if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Hermann Hesse's 'Siddhartha'. No promises that it will help you deal with said issues, but it did had a profound influence on my way of thinking when i was dealing with similar personal questions.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for possible worthwhile readings?
posted by pseudonism at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2006

While we're suggesting readings (and especially since I don't like Hesse, and need to get something else out there)...

Camus' The Myth of Sisyphous addresses these questions directly; I tend to agree with his conclusions ("The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart."). Go ahead and give it a read.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:19 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Putting aside all the people who say "depression" (which I do not necessarily disagree with) and "therapy" (which some vocal minority on AskMe always seems to have a problem with) there's also the larger question which everyone who stops to think has wrestled with forever: what's the point of life?

We live in a time where a lot of us don't have an authority figure who spells it out for us and many of us are lucky enough to be able to ask this question, rather than just being focused on staying alive, fed, and housed for the next 24 hours. That does mean, however, that the onus is on us to figure it out. Some people think there's no answer other than God and it's just up to us to realize it. Others think we make our own answer.

Either way, it's worth examining if you are indeed depressed or if you've just walked yourself in a rut and gotten used to it. (The difference between the two is left as an exercise...) Are there things that do matter to you or get you fired up? You say 'hobby' but for some people the time that many of us spend on 'hobbies' is spent on social issues, volunteering, a second business, etc.

I have a friend who meets your description pretty well and he's wrestled with some of these things, though he's always enjoyed video games in his spare time. Some years back he discovered that he liked volunteering at the local animal shelter and it's become one of the big focal points of his life. He didn't realize it would; he just liked animals and was bored and thought, well, why not try it. Maybe you just need to try some things on.
posted by phearlez at 1:21 PM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

I refuse to believe that there is nothing that doesn't involve your wife that you think would be fun to do. That you're too lazy to pursue, sure. But I know there are things that you have enjoyed in the past, before you met your wife, things that you think "huh, that looks like fun...but...", etc.

Take those things and don't be lazy. Don't make excuses. Don't worry if they are illegal/immoral/unsafe. Just make them happen.

You are here to amuse yourself. You just need to do a better job of it.
posted by trevyn at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2006

As far as the point of living goes, I don't think there is a person I know who can watch a few hours of the travel channel and not find a destination they would like to see for themselves. Human beings are curious creatures and travel is the simplest (in concept) activity which can satisfy this general desire. While this may make you depressed if you have no ability to visit these places, at least you will know that you are indeed capable of these feelings. This could be a source of hope for you and I believe hope is a requirement for happiness.

In addition not to parrot the instant metafilter response to all personal problems, consider talking to some type of therapist. You shouldn't have to live life like that. I mean if you doubt that it would help, try to remember the zoloft commercial with the little sad blob guy. Part of the commercial's main focus is whether you no longer have interest in the things that at one point in time DID bring you joy. IANAD but it sounds like sadness doesn't have to be a part of depression. Try to remember your life before you were married. What did you do in high school or your early twenties?
posted by JakeLL at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2006

"Professionally, I muddle. I work when I have to and take little pride in it. I like being a go-to guy at work but truthfully I ask, why bother? What's the point? Except for working to support and make my wife happy, it is like brushing my teeth or going to the bathroom- just a necessary activity."

Other people have pointed to depression.

Here are some questions for you (alone or with your eventual therapist) to think about:

- Is your job the kind of work you dreamed about when you were younger? Does it continually offer you new and exciting challenges to work on?
- Was your work (or training for your profession) ever your driving purpose? If so, are you proud of your field's or company's vision and methods, or do you have misgivings about the end or the means?
- Are you (or have you ever been) a people person? Have you ever been a person who enjoys parties and meeting new people and finding out about their lives?
- Have you ever had 1, 2 or several close friendships? Are there, or have there ever been, people in your life with whom you felt you shared a deep rapport? If so, what's happened that those connections have drifted away? If not, why do you hold back?
- Have you ever had dreams, whimsical or serious, from which you now feel cut off? What sort of obstacles have arisen?

- You're married. For how long?
- Are there expectations you had before marriage that aren't working out? Sex? Kids? Travel?

Something is missing for you. You're trying to fill the void with your wife's energy. But I suspect that your wife is starting to wear down. There's only so much a loving partner can take before the goodwill runs out.

Books by Harold Kushner may be helpful also, for example: Living a Life that Matters
posted by Araucaria at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I get up and get out of bed because I don't believe in a soul, or a god, or an afterlife, so I know this is all I have got, and I might as well try to make every minute count. Being alive is the one thing I've got going for me, and I am going to try to fill it to the brim with stuff that feels good, emotionally, physically, and intellectually.
posted by mckenney at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2006

I'm fifth-ing the "classic-signs-of-depression" hypothesis others are offering here.

If you've got free time and aren't interested in anything else, try giving Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning a shot. Couldn't hurt.
posted by catesbie at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2006

I don't think you are depressed, non; I think your love for your wife has fed upon itself and grown until it has crowded out all other loves, even self-love. I believe this is a danger for many men with their partners, and accounts to a considerable degree for all the woman-hating features of our culture and others-- if it weren't for those things, a lot more of us would end up like you.

I also think women are less vulnerable to this problem with their mates, if only because they are more prone to it with children (and when the object of this kind of abject love is a child the argument that it's unhealthy becomes difficult to make), and there's one of the rubs: she will tend over time to feel suffocated under the very weight of your regard and seek more separation from you. You may respond to to this with anger or by attempting to make yourself more lovable, and, since nothing in this world is more lovable than a baby, you could end up infantilizing yourself. She may respond with contempt, and disaster will ensue.

I think the best way to start to come out of this is to find something else to love, and I think it should be something which can love you back. How about an animal?
posted by jamjam at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely no point to anything ultimately. If I think about this too much, I will become depressed and immobile, so I have to distract myself. Everything in life is a distraction. The more distracting it is, the more I enjoy it. Maybe your wife is your biggest distraction? Find other things to distract you and keep you busy...even if you feel they might not have a point. You might end up really having fun despite yourself.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:44 PM on July 26, 2006

As much as I would like to say there's some deep, internal drive to fuel my inner whatever, I get out of bed, do well in my job, have social contacts, etc. just looking for a reward.

Not a big reward. A pat on the head. Knowing that someone else is happy. An end to the ceasless nagging inside my own head. Until recently, I rarely did anything for its own sake.

When I lived alone, I felt dead inside a bit. I wouldn't call it depression. I'd say that I wasn't used to being alone and didn't know how to fill the time when I wasn't trying to entertain a kid, prepare for someone coming over, etc. I lost a ton of weight because I had no incentive to cook just for me.

I got in the rhythm of it though and grew to appreciate the stillness, the lack of reward except for the joy of action for its own sake. Joy is too strong a word, but appreciate everything I did as I went about it.

Now that I no longer live alone, I'm better at the down moments because of practice, and because I've set up mental rewards that aren't fed off someone else. But it's not natural to me and I had to work at it.
posted by Gucky at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2006

Do drugs (particularly of the illegal variety) and have fun, enjoy your time here before it's gone. For every time you sit on your couch mopishly, eating packaged goods: imagine all the starving children around the world, or imagine that the next time you walk outside you'll get hit by a bus, whose driver is drunk and will never be charged let alone tried - hell, lets admit it, he even had it out for you seeing as you live in the suburbs. So what? It could be you, so take advantage of what you have and work with it, not against it. Go grill up the best goddamn burger you ever had, even if nobody else is home. Nobody can change you, nobody can inspire you, if anything these answers (from here or your future therapist) will only help you till the soil in the backlot of your mind that you prefer to ignore; this is where you will find your true meaning.
posted by prostyle at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2006

There is such a thing as a soul and yours isn't empty. Get some help for depression, preferably spiritual help. Don't listen to the doubters - they're just bitter.

It sounds as though you're not sure if God exists. He does, and He'll give you help if you ask for it.
posted by ostranenie at 2:13 PM on July 26, 2006

I've found that being passionate about things often leads to great enjoyment, even if it looks like frustration, exhaustion, anger, or worry.

I have hobbies, but many of them are simply time-wasters. What I enjoy in life is simply moments where I can really absorb myself into noticing the detail of what's happening. I've found something as simple as a walk at 3 am can be remarkably invigorating and remind me why life is truly worthwhile.

I spent years not knowing what I wanted out of life. It nearly destroyed me. I tore apart a good relationship, a wonderful friendship, years of my life, and wasted all manner of time not knowing what life had in store for me.

Now, I live because I want to live. There are things I want to do in life. If I can't do those things right now, I make it a point to enjoy what I can, when I can. If I wake up at the wrong time, cut myself shaving, spend six hours in lectures where the only point that day is regurgitation, get stuck eating dry leftovers, and my car's AC refuses to kick in on the day it hits 110, what I remember that day is walking across campus and being amused by a squirrel that's not afraid to grab an acorn near me, but if I take a step in his direction from twenty feet away, he shoots up the nearest tree.

It's nothing and everything all at once. Joy is found in different things for different people. It's a matter of how you look at things, and what you want to enjoy. I hesitate to chime in on the quick diagnosis of depression, although I do suggest asking your general doctor's opinion about the matter. Whether it's depression, health problems, or just as you put it, an "empty soul", something can be done. You want more out of life, and that's enough to start. Enjoy what you enjoy, and try what sounds interesting. Do something new, even if it's something you know little about. Also, consider volunteer work. You enjoy being a go-to guy, and seeing the results of work do good for people might just be enough motivation to enjoy yourself.

If you'd like to hear some lengthier and more personal details, feel free to toss an email from an anonymous account or somesuch. Good luck with the steps from wanting life to be great to making it great.
posted by Saydur at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2006

That's a classic description of depression--rather than the weepy sadness that some people might imagine, it's often a lack of any strong feelings at all, like you're emotionally numb. Anyway, when enthusiasm or meaning elude me sometimes either humor, anger, intellectual curiosity, hope of adventure or some sensual pleasure can hook me back into the realm of the living. There's the Woody Allen movie where his character is suicidal, goes to a Marx Bros. movie and decides that a any world with the Marx Bros. is worth living in. Righteous anger at the idiocy of of the Bush administration, a rare steak and a bottle of red wine, thoughts of snorkeling in tropical waters, reminding myself I haven't yet been to Machu Picchu, or thinking about getting a dog have helped me get out of bed sometimes when nothing else has. Make a list of what you love and hate and rub your nose in it. Travel and see something that puts you in awe. Have an adventure. Do something hard or scary.

If you didn't believe in god before this then as an atheist (of the I'm-sure-I-can't-know-and-neither-can-you variety) I can tell you that you don't need to believe in god to be joyful and enraptured by the wonders of the natural world and the miracles of human creation and imagination.
posted by tula at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2006

Hobbies - I agree. Pointless waste of time. It's all very weird to see people doing useless stuff with expensive crap. What I do in my spare time is not a hobby.

I might go for a walk because it makes me feel better. Both the change of scenery - from preference it'd be bushwalking - and the exercise both make me feel different, usually better.

I sometimes draw or paint, but you can't call that a hobby because it's Art, man. And maybe I'll make a living out of it, but I don't recommend it to you because
a. it's incredibly frustrating to rarely achieve the result I'm after.
b. you've got to want to do it.

I read a lot. A lot a lot a lot. I even reread books. This gives me another world to live for a while. (No, you can't call reading a hobby, it's too noble). Find the right book and you're challenged by new ideas, another book and your adrenalin is up with the adventure. Ok, it's not THAT good, but it's better than staring at a wall.

I don't do much else. I watch the occasional movie, TV on a Wednesday night. Of course, I interact with my family (husband and kids), and there's the household chores etc.

I would suggest you think of something you did as a kid that you really enjoyed, cycling? breeding tadpoles? The grown up version may really appeal to you. If you can get the motivation to get up and do something about it, you might find you really enjoy it.

Fake it until you succeed. Write a to-do list, challenge yourself to get through it in X time, and go for it. At some stage your interest may well up.

(Yeah, and see a doctor). Oh and as far as I can tell, you have a maximum of 100 years on this planet. And then pfft. Don't waste it. Use that time well to experience good things, and do good things. (Just a little pep talk that I use on myself).
posted by b33j at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2006

Absolutely the worst thing you could do would be to seek out bullshit religious solutions for a real problem -- and I don't know that you have one. Please ignore all those who are suggesting that you look to 'spiritual' help or that you ask for help from some god.

And if you can, take some pleasure in ignoring them.

To answer your question: I've pretty much been killing time and waiting to die for years. I get up and go to work to pay the rent. I get joy from the little things, like mocking the stupid, foolish and ignorant.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:30 PM on July 26, 2006

The only possible reason to get out of bed is improvement. Yourself, the world, whatever. A day in which you don't make something better is a wasted day. Read a book, take a hike that you think is physically just a little beyond your capability, make something useful with your hands and give it away, write a song, rope your cow-orkers into pitching in for a charity project, teach a child a magic trick. "Make your wife happy" is a way to make the world a better place too, but it should by no means be the only thing you do.
posted by kindall at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2006

Addendum: The soul is the part of you that wants to make things better.
posted by kindall at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

This actually reminded me of a story on NPR about someone whose body stopped producing testosterone, more than it did depression.

No matter what it is, you should probably see a doctor, because you really don't have to live like that.
posted by empath at 3:32 PM on July 26, 2006

As an alternative to depression it is worth also looking into the notion of 'schizoid personality disorder', fwiw...which if you're not unhappy but simply uninterested in most things is a good second guess or descriptor.

The various psychiatric medications can be helpful and you should feel no shame in taking them should you choose to do so but if you should choose to take them you should also understand that the change they bring may not be the change you're expecting and also that the change you get may not last forever, either...
posted by little miss manners at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Like you, I would find making model airplanes pointless. Lots of hobbies are pointless. If you're the sort of pragmatic person who needs your hobbies to have a point, then try volunteerism instead. That way, there's a practical result for your efforts. What did you want to be when you were a kid? If it was a vet, then consider volunteering for an animal shelter, or if it was an engineer, for Habitats for Humanity, or if it was a photographer, for a local arts organization. And so on.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:46 PM on July 26, 2006

You want to know what is in my soul? Conviction and loyalty to Jesus Christ. He owns my soul. He owns my time. He owns everything, but allows you and I every breath we take and every minute we utilize or squander. Jesus Christ is your Creator and knows you better than you do. Ask Him for help. Look and listen for the answers - they will come.

What have you got to lose?
posted by rinkjustice at 4:12 PM on July 26, 2006

"There is no one else I have any interest in "

You only have one friend, no wonder you're bored. Human beings are amongst the most social creatures on the planet bar termites.

Happy = other people. Go find some.
posted by greytape at 5:20 PM on July 26, 2006

I violently disagree with all the diagnosises of depression. It sounds to me that you're having an existential crisis. This is typically an intellectual problem that most people avoid using religion. Or getting drunk regularly. Personally, I find those solutions more troubling than your current situation. And it's unlikely that a pill will give your life meaning -- all it will do is numb you enough so you don't worry about not caring.

You're right about life having no inherent meaning. Nor need it. Personally, I give meaning to my life through scientific pursuit, or at least by aiming to make the world a better place, on balance. (You're my karma boost for today, btw.)

However, if you have the luxury of being able to do nothing, you should realise that you're in a better place than most of the world's population, who are so desperately trying to survive that they don't have time to consider if it's worth it.

Here are some jumping off points for stuff I find interesting:
* Perplex City (Down as I type this)
* SETI@home
* Make Magazine

As a person who feels like an outsider looking in, I find photography fun, on and off.
posted by krisjohn at 5:26 PM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Wow - lots of prosletyzing on here, despite your request.

I'm of the belief that jesus, gods, heaven, souls and all that silliness are a direct result of problems like yours. Thanks to technology and civilization, we humans have evolved from primitive, hunter-gatherer lifestyles that pretty much consumed our entire 30-year lifespans to have waaaayy too much time on our hands to fret over what it all means.

The big joke is: it doesn't mean anything! We're still just here to instinctively eat, sleep and reproduce. But we can have lots of fun doing it. So you don't like fantasy baseball or model airplanes -- find something else to do. Read. Play a sport. Excersise. Join a club. Learn how to play chess. Get a better job. Join the Peace Corps. Get involved in a political campaign or grass-roots organizing. Travel. Live, damn you. LIVE!

If you're really not having any fun at this amazing life thing, then I'm still gonna stand by my and everyone else's unprofessional diagnosis of depression.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2006

Maybe it's not for you, but for me this is a type of depression that I've been diagnosed with and am currently working through, in therapy. In my particular case, it's a coping mechanism to kind of numb myself to things that are otherwise emotionally hard for me to deal with. It may not be depression for you, but it couldn't hurt to find out. A good therapist is interested in one thing, which is helping you answer exactly these kinds of questions for yourself, to help you live a better life. In that sense, therapy is never a bad answer in my estimation; how could it be bad to simply have a dialog with someone who knows a lot about stuff like this? The worst case is that you disagree with his/her perspective and move on. I was very much a therapy skeptic when I started. I've learned a lot about myself through the process, and that's something that's very important to me.

That said, my version of happiness/motivation boils down to this: you have a limited amount of time on this earth, and the only real point to any of it is finding satisfaction while you're here. To some, this is accomplished through altruistic deeds. To others, it's preparing for the next life (see: religion). Yet others, it's hedonistic pursuits. Some people like to rule the world. Etc.

For me, it's allowing myself to experience the wonder of the world around me, whether it's the beautiful things, or the ugly, the disastrous, absurd, silly, painful, tragic, magical, even the mundane. Because it all adds up to an amazingly complex system that, by its very nature, I find extremely fascinating. I guess fascinating is what works for me, and when I look at the world from a macro or micro level, I find that there's always something fascinating in my midst.

P.S. Don't listen to anyone who tells you not to listen to someone else. :) Explore! Listen to everyone. Try everything. What do you have to lose?
posted by Brak at 5:53 PM on July 26, 2006

Anyhow, my question is this. Why do you do anything for you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What animates you? What is your point? What makes you live for you?

I'm not convinced (and thus do not assume) that there is such a thing as a soul, but the physical being that I am gets out of bed in the morning because he almost always has to urinate very badly. Then, after that, there's breakfast to look forward to.
posted by Hildago at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

posted by tula at 8:27 PM on July 26, 2006

This reminds me of a quote I read once. "Tomorrow will be different. Maybe not better, but at least different!" Sometimes, curiosity about what is going to happen today is what gets me out of bed!
posted by IndigoRain at 12:50 AM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

The point of hobbies is that they are a way of channelling aggression and creative energy (the two are very closely related). If you don't have any aggression to channel, then they will seem like a waste of time to you.

So it's possible that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain or a testosterone problem. I would like to suggest something else however, which is that your basic drives for food and possibly sex are being over-satisfied, leaving you contented and passive.

So my suggestions are to eat less, and possibly to seek sexual release less often. Get back in touch with what real hungriness and horniness feels like. I'm not saying you should be hungry all the time, but you should be feeling a distinct sharpness in your appetite by the time you eat.

A warning: if you do choose to go this route, you will feel a more aggressive; that's the point. I suggest keeping a protein bar or similar with you all the time so that you can regulate it to a level that is right for you. You don't want to be in a situation where you are about ready to kill anyone who gets between you and lunch.
posted by teleskiving at 1:07 AM on July 27, 2006

Read Atlas Shrugged. It turns most people into assholes, but if you seriously have no self, it might bring you up to the mandatory minimum.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:12 AM on July 27, 2006

Maybe it would help to actually NOT focus on yourself and what makes you happy.

Have you considered devoting some of your time to helping others? Not just in the sense of providing for your wife or doing a good job at work, but helping people who are in need and who are being overlooked or ignored by the rest of us. Then it doesn't have to be about you, and in fact your being happy and deriving some kind of "fun" or "pleasure," in the conventional senses, anyway, is totally beside the point.

Having your health and mind/intellect intact (possible clinical depression aside) puts you to a great advantage, when you come to think about it. When I get feelings similar to yours (no pleasure in anything, etc), it helps when I think about how lucky I am and what a waste of life force it is to just squander it.

I've found that when I'm having a down period (day, week, month) -- feeling like I'm biologically alive, but not really living -- directing my energies towards helping other people helps me possibly even more than it helps them. When I finish a shift at the crisis hotline I volunteer at, I feel refreshed and revitalized, even on those days when before going in I'm questioning the purpose of remaining alive and going through the motions of living. I think it's because (a) the work relieves me of the responsibility of my own self for a little while, and (b) by helping other people feel just a little bit better in their days, I have made a positive use of energies that would otherwise have been dissipated meaninglessly.

In one sense it may sound like this isn't an answer for your question (ie, try NOT living for you for a little while), but ultimately, if it works, it IS for you.
posted by tentacle at 6:16 AM on July 27, 2006

Thanks for your question - I'll be following this eagerly. To answer directly: I get out of bed because I'm a stubborn m*therf*cker. I'm actually in a really bad rut right now but I remember when I wasn't; and I know that my current ennui is a challenge, a riddle to be solved, a question: What now?

Boredom - even deep existential ennui - can actually be a very powerful teacher. It can be a sign that there is something wrong with the way you're approaching your life, and a potentially electrifying opportunity to revision yourself as someone you find inspiring.

If you go the treatment route, find a good naturopath or homeopath first. If that isn't working, look then to to co-counselling, then therapy, then in to the biochemical underpinnings of what's going on with you. In that order.

But in the meantime deal first with the big open-ended question of your numbness.

Try something you don't think you'd enjoy, just on a lark. Do something really out of character. Go somewhere you normally wouldn't. And spend time apart from your wife. Jar yourself out of your rut, and figure out who the hell you are. Make yourself uncomfortable - not just bored - and see what results.

Read poetry. Write poetry. Go sit in a park and watch trees and birds for two hours a day, and maybe start to learn about them - their species, their seasonal habits, etc. Connect yourself with your surroundings. Get in to philosophy. Dabble in spiritual traditions (and ignore with extreme prejudice people who talk about god - the solution is not external to you). If you are spiritually inclined, personally I would say try a good translation of the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell and Ursula LeGuin did my favourite translations), or something by Pema Chodron or even Starhawk.

Learn to fix something. Actually research some glib pronouncement made by some talking head on the news. Treat your next passing fancy like a research project - because you want to, not because you have to.

With all the crap floating around in our environment (physical and social) these days, it's quite possible there's something chemical going on for you. But it's equally possible that it's a result of your patterns - the physical makeup of the brain responds to our emotions just like the reverse is true. I strongly believe that humans are biologically predisposed to take joy out of their existence given that basic physical needs are met and that they engage.

When you are alone, don't shut off. Engage with yourself. Ask hard questions. Above all, avoid easy answers.
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh and maybe this goes without saying, but - when's the last time you had a blood test? You'd be amazed what a difference can be made by having enough (or not enough) vitamins and minerals. Start there.
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:56 AM on July 27, 2006

I get up in the morning because I'm still enough of an optimist to hope that tomorrow will be better than today was.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:36 PM on July 27, 2006

As a professional psychologist - I'd say depression. Get yourself some SSRI's - try them out - and compare. If they help - then you know. If they don't - well - okay. Find a good psychiatrist who will work with you to tweak the medication so it supports you - sometimes you have to try different medication at different doses at different times of the day to get the best results Good luck. (PS Don't just stop with what your local doc hands out - look for a psychiatrist who knows their stuff and will work with you until it's right.)
posted by trii at 5:25 PM on July 29, 2006

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