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I'm trying to fill in the gap in a sentence like this:

John's true skills were stagnating, even regressing, and in his ___, he increasingly indulged in fanciful daydreams where he would save the day, instead of facing his difficulties head-on.

I'm thinking of the word "decadence", but I feel like there's a word I'm not remembering that's a better fit.

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I think a bit more context is necessary. What sort of decadence - material, moral? Why is this guy dreaming of saving the day? What were his true skills? – onomatomaniak Oct 9 '11 at 19:01
This is purely material - he just is losing his touch at his profession, and he's avoiding dealing with it or trying to correct it by retreating into fantasy. – logarithm Oct 9 '11 at 19:04
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Decline was the first word that came to me, too.

If you're looking for a word to describe his funk itself, though, what about something like indifference or lassitude? Even malaise might fit.

These aren't synonyms of decadence, of course, but when I read your sentence, decadence isn't the word that jumps out at me.

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Ooh, I think I like malaise for this! Thanks! – logarithm Oct 9 '11 at 20:19
No problem. I think @kylben's downward spiral would do well, too. – onomatomaniak Oct 10 '11 at 8:11

As alternatives, my ‘Collins Thesaurus’ gives degeneration, decline, corruption, fall, decay, deterioration, dissolution, perversion, dissipation, debasement and retrogression. But then again, perhaps you don’t mean decadence at all.

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perversion and debasement have a moral connotation that I'm not looking for - deterioration and decay are along the right lines. I suppose I might say John is just "in a funk", but I'm looking a word to describe being in that state. – logarithm Oct 9 '11 at 19:31

The word I'd put into that sentence is "decline". "Downward spiral" could work, or if you want to express more of a mood, "funk" or "rut" might work. "Decay" hints at "decadence" without the moralistic overtones.

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Thanks, I would +1 if I could. – logarithm Oct 9 '11 at 20:19

If you wish to attribute John's decline in skills to age, you might use words like dotage, senescence, and wane or waning years.

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