Good news! I have finally realized why my dissertation research and writing has stalled. I am neither flourishing nor suffering–I am stuck in the middle, languishing. Step 1 is identifying the problem. Step 2 is taking action to solve the problem. Right?
A brief taxonomy of wellbeing states
People often think of mood as a battle between wellbeing and illbeing: either you feel good or bad. But if you don’t feel much of either, that’s the territory of languishing. To further understand languishing, it helps to recognize that an absence of ill-being does not mean the presence of wellbeing. But if you don’t feel much of either, that’s the territory of languishing. It’s ‘the neglected middle child of mental health’, as Adam Grant put it in The New York Times in 2021. Whereas depression is active ill-being – feeling sad, powerless and drained – and flourishing is active wellbeing – feeling engaged, excited and empowered – languishing sits in between. It is a sense of stagnation where nothing is too wrong or painful but everything feels a bit boring and uninteresting. The world is grey.
Psychological research has shown that positive and negative feelings are partly independent processes – even neurologically and biologically. In moments of flourishing, you are high on excitement and joy, and low on negative feelings. In moments of suffering, there is not much joy but only sadness in our life. But there are also bittersweet moments where we feel strong positive and negative emotions simultaneously – such as feeling excited about one’s new job while feeling sad about leaving the old work community. Then there is languishing – moments when we don’t feel much of either. Languishing is thus about feeling low – but low on both positive and negative feelings.
From the article How to Get Your Mojo Back