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Doing nothing. Being electrocuted. We prefer the latter!


People, and especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts so much that they’d rather be in pain. In a study published in Science Thursday on the ability of people to let their minds “wander” — that is, for them to sit and do nothing but think — researchers found that about a quarter of women and two-thirds of men chose electric shocks over their own company.

“We went into this thinking that mind wandering wouldn’t be that hard”, said Timothy Wilson, University of Virginia professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “People usually think of mind wandering as being a bad thing, because it interrupts when you’re trying to pay attention. But we wanted to see what happens when mind wandering is the goal”.

Wilson didn’t think his subjects would struggle with the task.

But they did.

When it became clear that people were desperate for distractions, the researchers decided to give them one. “It dawned on us: If people find this so difficult”, Wilson said, “would they prefer negative stimulations to boredom?” He gave them access to a device that would provide a small electrical shock by pressing a button. It wasn’t a very strong shock, as the device was built around a 9 volt battery. “But we weren’t even sure it was worth doing”, he said. “I mean, no one was going to shock themselves by choice”.

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But they did. (1)

Staying alone with your self if hard.
Most people try to fill in their time with activities, so that they avoid any unpleasant encounters with their own… thoughts.

We live in a society which promotes doing things rather than just… wandering.
We have lost our connection to the cosmos.
We have lost our connections with our self.

Try to sit alone and do nothing.
And you will see that it is only then that you actually do something…

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Comments (


  1. Mark Bloom (Philomeme)

    “Try to sit alone and do nothing.
    And you will see that it is only then that you actually do something…”

    Well put. It is only in the isolation of meditation that I am free to explore what is and could be. I am lucky to live with someone who sees the benefit and enables the space to do so.

    The BBC philosophy program did a good job of exploring the history and meaning of solitude. Highly recommend listening:


    1. skakos

      I will check it out… Thanks!

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