Sunday Neurosis

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Loverboy, the Canadian rock band that’s been performing since 1979, is best known for their hit Everybody’s Working for the Weekend.

Now just try getting that tune out of your head for the rest of the day.

Weekday Survival 101 is the assurance that the weekend will finally come.  But as it turns out, not everybody ends up loving the weekend.

That was the conclusion of Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl, whose book Man’s Search for Meaning was a landmark study in human motivation.  After observing thousands of workers, Frankl coined the term “Sunday neurosis.”

Here’s how he defined it:  “Sunday neurosis [is] that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.”

Or to put it another way:  Sunday is the day that reminds millions of people they don’t really know how to relax, because they don’t really know what their lives are supposed to be about.

Weekends and holidays (like Labor Day) force us to face ourselves.  And often we are depressed by the emptiness we discover.

Vacations may also leave people feeling low.  Planning a vacation is a blast.  There are usually scores of things to do, and the anticipation is sweet.  But halfway through our long-anticipated time away, a number of us get fidgety.  We start to imagine returning to the routines of normal life. 

Something similar happens to many married couples when the nest becomes empty.

For years there was so much stuff to do:  change diapers, host epic birthday parties, get everyone to school on time, deal with the trauma of braces and proms, and cry when the kids head off to college or their first real jobs.  That’s when a number of moms and dads turn toward each other and realize, perhaps for the first time, that they never really got around to investing in each other.  What’s the playbook for the next chapter?

Sunday neurosis is powerful because all week long we live as if what we are doing is what really matters.  But there’s no hiding on Sunday.  That’s when we have to deal with the fact that life is actually about who we are becoming. 

If we’ve trained ourselves to feel good only when something gets done, “time off” may feel like wasted time.

Or maybe we’re uncomfortable with the comparative silence.  Or the solitude.  Or what we might discover if we seriously begin to reflect on how our lives are turning out.

Which is why Monday, believe it or not, is such a refuge for so many people in our culture.  At least we know what we have to do.  We can overlook life’s uncertainties if we start working on projects that will keep us busy or help us keep our jobs.

But the first Monday of September has already been taken away from us.  So what’s the cure for the boredom, depression, and emotional flatness of Sunday / holiday neurosis?

First and foremost:  Stop believing the lie that More Doing = Joyful Being.  Accomplishments can never satisfy the soul.  That’s because the human heart was designed to be inundated by the love and grace of God. 

Psalm 46:10 reminds us:  “Be still and know that God is God.”  Stillness is not easy.  But we can all get better with practice.

The meaning of life is not running away from the meaning of life.  We have nothing to lose by opening ourselves anew to the mystery of life’s most important questions.

May God grant you a joyful, restful, and restorative three-day weekend. 

And just to be on the safe side:  Stay away from those old Loverboy cassettes.