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Being ‘in the doldrums’ is an apt metaphor for feeling sluggish, inactive and in low spirits.

In the days of sailing ships the expression meant the time spent waiting for a wind to carry the ship forward, when it was becalmed in low-pressure equatorial latitudes (the doldrums). Naturally the crew got bored, and that could be troublesome for the captain who had to occupy them to avoid discontent.

A further problem was uncertainty; there was no way of telling how long it would last; weeks or even months. “In the doldrums” is an apt metaphor, signifying as it does an unwanted shift from progression and forward movement, to lassitude, inactivity and boredom.

There’s also a notion that finding yourself In the doldrums is circumstantial; it’s about where you happen to be on your voyage. In the olden days, journeying from North to South (or in the other direction) meant passing through the doldrums. It was an unavoidable part of any journey, and there are parallels with life.

There are times when we find ourselves becalmed, stuck in a place of boredom and discomfort when, try as we may, we can generate neither energy nor movement in the direction we’d like to go. This often happens following change or disruption, or even after a major project or period of intense work has been successfully completed.

When you are stuck in the doldrums there are a couple of simple points to remember that might be useful:

It is a necessary part of how we adapt to change. Trying to force something to happen is not a good idea; trying to whistle up a wind doesn’t work.

The discomfort is a vital part of it too. Adapting to changed circumstances (like divorce, redundancy, illness)  requires a corresponding psychological change. This is called transition, and if you want to come out of the other side you have to go through it. New beginnings happen after the a period of discomfort and uncertainty.

You can’t avoid the doldrums, nor should you try. Use the time on restoration and maintenance, just as the ancient mariners did when they repaired the rigging and cleaned the ship.


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