Suffering comes in many flavors, but one of the cruelest is when something we used to love becomes a chore. Disliking something that once brought me joy makes me feel sad, hopeless… and even a little guilty, as if I’m betraying myself somehow.
I feel lucky that, these days, most things I spend time on are exciting and energizing. And one of the best things about being a multipotentialite is that there’s always something thrilling around the corner. If one passion has dried up—or taken a sabbatical—then there are always new pursuits to discover that will keep life interesting.
But what happens when that love of discovery… just stops? Is it possible to fall out of love with the concept of new things?
That might sound silly, or even impossible, but I know I’m not the only one who experiences periods when nothing at all seems exciting. In those moments, stumbling on something that I’d normally think is super cool can feel deadening, even soul-destroying. There’s something deeply sad about the thought, I’d normally be excited by this… Why don’t I care?!
Over the course of our lives, we can expect that seasons will arise when nothing feels new or exciting. We may even feel that nothing will be new or exciting ever again.
Taken to its extreme, this feeling is called anhedonia: the inability to feel pleasure. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the major symptoms of depression. (Arguably, it’s also one of the major causes of depression, as being unable to feel pleasure is itself pretty depressing. Thanks, brain!)
Certainly, the times in my life when I’ve most struggled to find any passion have been times when I’ve been most depressed. Once, near the end of a difficult six months, a friend was telling me about a mathematical model of the atmosphere that they were building. I was stunned to realize that I was genuinely excited by their project. That jolt of feeling made me realize just how little passion I’d been able to access during the previous several months. It gave me hope that I was still capable of feeling that thrill—I had been afraid I was somehow broken.
Inability to be excited by novelty isn’t necessarily a sign of depression. It could arise for many reasons. After all, multipods experience so much novelty that it’s perfectly natural for the associated excitement to wax and wane over time. It can be tiring to repeatedly start anew. Sometimes it takes a long search before we stumble across the right next exciting thing. And, when we do find it, sometimes circumstances don’t allow us to fully invest in it.
Whatever the reason, when trying new things has lost its sparkle, you can do something about it. Nobody should live without joy.
What can I do?
Of course, if anhedonia is due to some deeper issue—whether life circumstance, chemical imbalance, or a need for mental health support—then there’s no true solution that doesn’t involve solving the deeper issue. In most cases, though, there’s plenty we can do for ourselves. For me, it all starts with daydreaming. Allowing myself to dream, without judgement, back to a time when I was enjoying something new is a powerful exercise. I might think of when I first played a recognizable tune on the piano, or imagine the thrill of meeting somebody who shared my latest obsession. But instead of thinking, I wish I felt like that now, I just try to dream about the feeling itself.
Then, I have to let myself believe that that feeling still exists out there, and that I can find it again. In these moments, it’s important to tell myself that the feeling of excitement and inspiration brought on by new things is not lost forever, and that it doesn’t matter that I don’t yet know the reason why it disappeared. Simply wanting to feel excitement again is a critical ingredient to finding it once more.
Give it time…
I always find it extremely annoying to be told that something unpleasant is part of the natural cycle of life, but it’s true: sometimes we’re just in certain moods for no particular reason, or for an unknowable, transient reason. Often, these feelings pass, and we stumble into something else exciting before too long. So, there’s an argument to be made for waiting it out!
…but not too much time
At the risk of getting over-poetic, if a season doesn’t naturally end then maybe it was never a season to begin with.
One good reason for not feeling any excitement is that we genuinely haven’t come across anything exciting in a while. In this case, it may be time to cast a wider net.
Sometimes, when I feel as if the world has run out of interesting things, I realize I’ve only been looking in the same places I always look. It can be hard to break out of the bubbles we’ve created, particularly when our devices are full of algorithms showing us things we already like, rather than expanding our horizons with things we might like. But it’s worthwhile to put in the effort to discover something truly new.
One method I’ve found is to ask friends about their interests that I’ve previously never been paid attention to. This isn’t necessarily about adopting that particular interest. It’s about learning to look at it through their eyes. What do they love about it? What does it bring to their lives? Where does the joy come from? Sometimes, just being exposed to other people’s joy re-sparks my own, or gives me a new idea.
A while back I met a puttypeep who had fallen out of love with new passions. But for them, it wasn’t depression, random mood, lack of desire, or circumstances holding them back. They’d internalized years of negative messaging about themselves.
Decades of criticism—from ourselves, from others, or even imagined—can pile up. If every time we start something new we say to ourselves, Oh, given up on everything else again, have we? What a quitter! then of course starting something new will begin to feel stressful.
This kind of internalized negative belief teaches our brains to associate starting anew with the pain of self-criticism. Before long, it can poison the entire concept of new passions.
Internalized beliefs can be un-internalized
We just have to recognize them and dissolve them. For example, rather than criticizing themselves for starting something new, my puttypeep friend could make a conscious effort to praise themselves for their curiosity, passion, bravery and whatever other positive qualities this new interest brings out in them. Eventually they could even learn to associate new passions with excitement instead of anxiety, and novelty would be thrilling once more.
You’re in good company
I know many people feel a lack of joy in novelty from time-to-time, and some feel that way for a long, long time. So, it’s common to feel this way.
I hope that, if you find yourself wondering if there’s anything exciting left in the world, it turns out to be a passing mood or period of low energy. But either way, the Puttylike community is here for you—if the ideas in this article don’t help, then hopefully community support can make the difference.
If you’re struggling with anhedonia for a long time, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support. Sometimes, this isn’t a problem we can easily solve on our own, and working with a therapist or other mental health professional can be a way to move forward more effectively.
Have you ever lost the joy of new passions? How did you get it back? Share your tips and stories with the community in the comments.
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