Shocking Yourself v/s Being Left Alone With Your Thoughts

Would you rather shock yourself than think alone

How often have you lamented that you need more alone time? Meeting one social requirement after another means even the happiest social butterfly needs some alone time to wind down. It is interesting however that for many people, alone time is spent doing activities or distracting themselves. Of course, without activities and distractions, what can people do? A study conducted by Timothy Wilson and his colleagues inspected just that. Most people don’t like to be left alone with their thoughts, and according to the study, people would prefer to shock themselves rather than think.


The researchers recruited hundreds of volunteers to take part in “thinking session” for their study. The individuals were placed in furnished rooms and did not have any of their belongings with them. Each participant was given one of two tests that lasted 6-15 minutes: some were told to think about whatever they wanted, and some were given prompts for their thoughts, such as going out to eat or playing

a sport. After this, the participants were asked to rate their experiences on a 9-point scale, where the higher the number was, the more enjoyable the time was. In both scenarios, 50% of the people reported mid-level to low scores on their enjoyment, and rated high scores for boredom. The researchers then changed the location of the study, and participants were asked to do the same “thinking” task in the comfort of their house. However, the results remained the same. The participants also stated that they enjoyed activities like listening to music or reading a book twice as much as thinking. In the final leg of the research, participants were placed in a  lab room for 15 minutes. The room contained a button that participants could push to shock themselves if they wanted to. Even though the same participants that had reported that they would pay money to avoid being shocked, 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose to inflict the shock upon themselves in order to avoid sitting and thinking quietly. Though the shocking could be
mixed with the signs of boredom, these results are actually quite surprising.


This could be because most people don’t actually know how to control their thoughts. We have an array of thoughts to choose from: pleasant memories from the past, hopes and dreams of our future, and even an extremely active imagination that lets us create worlds and scenarios of our own. In this way, we have the capacity to entertain ourselves without any external devices. However, when left alone, our mind wanders to the negatives rather than the positives. As we reach adolescence and beyond, we can become overwhelmed with difficulties and challenges that can upset us and take a toll on our mental health. They can cause a lot of anxiety and pain which are emotions we naturally want to avoid. Once we find a way to do that, such as immersing ourselves in a movie or a T.V show, we stick to it as a coping mechanism. If we are upset about

a fight with a friend, for example, we tune out the negative emotions by watching T.V. If we are left to our own thoughts without any distractions, we tend to upheave emotions that we have been avoiding.


Another reason could be that distractions have become a habit. Activities like self-reflection and introspection have taken a back seat because there is so much entertainment available for us. New advancements in technology have brought about devices like Virtual Reality, there are constant developments in video games, there are countless movies and T.V shows to access on platforms like Netflix and Hulu. When given a choice to do nothing or entertain yourself, most people choose the entertainment. This means that finding healthy ways to engage in your thoughts is necessary. Entertainment can be great, but taking alone time to sort your thoughts out can foster healthy coping methods and improve your creativity. It also gives your brain a break from the constant sensory overload. Meditation

and mindfulness are some wonderful ways you can train your mind to control and refine thoughts.