I read the other day about a study that found that most people have a really hard time sitting alone with their thoughts.
The story related how researchers had asked volunteers to sit alone in a room for fifteen minutes. The room contained nothing but a table and chair and a machine that would produce mild electrical shocks if one chose to use it. Apparently a fairly large percentage of the research subjects chose to administer shocks to themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts for even fifteen minutes.
Letting one’s mind wander to past occurrences or future possibilities seems to me pretty natural so I guess I don’t understand what the problem was. Focusing on the eternity of now, I must admit, isn’t always easy but my mind is pretty good at wandering.
In fact, I was just thinking about the movie, Altered States, in which the protagonist, played by William Hurt, submerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber, which is essentially a tank of warm water in a totally darkened cubicle, for hours on end, day after day. His idea was that by doing this he could get in touch with his primal inner self. And I guess he does because he ends up developing simian characteristics.
So, I’m wondering if the reason most people are unable or unwilling to be alone with their thoughts is that they fear glimpsing their innate animal natures.
If this is the case it sure explains our inclination to constantly be distracting ourselves.