I’d Rather Be Shocked Than Sit Alone With My Thoughts

I’m not sure I know what this all means but I stumbled upon an interesting psychological study done at Virginia and Harvard universities. Apparently the human species does not enjoy sitting alone with our thoughts. Check this out .

The first run of experiments began with students being ushered – alone, without phones, books or anything to write with – into an unadorned room and told to think. The only rules were they had to stay seated and not fall asleep. They were informed – specifically, or vaguely – that they would have six to 15 minutes alone.

The students were questioned when the time was up. On average, they did not enjoy the experience. They struggled to concentrate. Their minds wandered even with nothing to distract them. Even giving them time to think about what to think about did not help . . . But the most staggering result was yet to come. To check whether people might actually prefer something bad to nothing at all, the students were given the option of administering a mild electric shock . . . All the students picked for the test said they would pay to avoid mild electric shocks after receiving a demonstration.

To the researchers’ surprise, 12 of 18 men gave themselves up to four electric shocks, as did six of 24 women.”What is striking is that simply being alone with their thoughts was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid,” the scientists write in Science. – The Guardian, July 3, 2014

Is this something that is part of our genetic hard-wiring, or is it something that has been created by our fast-paced, overly stimulated culture? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a bit of both, but here’s what I know. I know from my own experience that when I enter into the discipline of solitude (the difficult exercise of turning off the stimulus and being present only to God and myself as I sit before God) I have found myself renewed. So if the very thing that can bring us renewal is so repugnant that we’d rather give ourselves and electrical shock – then no wonder so many of us are frayed, and wrung out by life.

About Andy Lewis

Andy is an author, pastor, and musician who lives in Santa Cruz California. Currently he serves as lead pastor at Faith Community Church in Santa Cruz
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