A recent study by researchers at University of Virginia and Harvard published July 4th, in the journal of Science, found that many people would rather be doing something, including hurting themselves, than be alone with their thoughts. In one experiment two-thirds of the men and twenty-five percent of the women actually preferred to give themselves a mild electric shock (an average of 7 times in 15 minutes) rather than just be with their own thoughts. The shock was hurtful enough that every person had previously said they would pay to avoid it. And, yet they were willing to intentionally experience pain to avoid being thoughtfully alone.
Unfortunately, as a society, we don’t encourage a wondering, wandering mind. Being self-absorbed is simply defined as to be absorbed in one’s own thoughts or interests. And, yet, the synonyms for self-absorbed include egoistical, egomaniacal, narcissistic, self-centered, self-infatuated, self-involved, and selfish. Who would want to experience solitude if this is how we define self-focused thought?
There is also much to distract even those desiring time for self-pondering thought. To be honest, sometimes too much of my alone-to-ponder time is spent playing Angry Birds or scrolling through Facebook (although I did find this blog topic while scrolling).
I think the problem is that for the majority of us, the thinking we do while alone is negative, painful and draining. If all we think about while alone is about our fear, our anxiety, feeling inadequate, blaming others for our situation, being critical, suspicious or feeling pressure, why would we want to spend any time there?
Here’s an idea. Let’s tweak the definition of self-absorbed to make the time spent there more enjoyable and effective. Self-absorbed (Clarity definition) is to be absorbed in one’s own lights-on, energizing, effective thoughts or one’s vision and passion driven interests. Sounds pretty good to me; spend my solitude time thinking about all the things that light me up, things I’m curious about, things I’m grateful for, and my confidence in my ability to create the peak experiences I want in my life.
We also need to modify the synonyms for this new definition to include self-directed visionary, self-centered and aligned with life, self-infatuated and confident, sacredly selfish by serving others from a life full of celebration and joy.
The answer to increasing your desire to spend more time with your own thoughts is to give yourself an internal electric shock – follow your own lights-on, energetic thinking.
In self-absorbed (Clarity definition) thought,
thankyou guys! always love your posts!
I love being alone with my thoughts as I am an artist and that is my hermit crone way of being INFP/INTP it’s me to a tee!
cheers … m:)
Glad you liked it, Merilyn.
Fascinating article Gary. I recently had to sit in an emergency room waiting on my husband who was there to visit a friend. Only one person was allowed in, so I volunteered to sit and wait in the waiting room. After 20 minutes, my phone died, realized there was no television, magazines or any other stimulus available. I was forced to sit for almost three hours with only my thoughts. I can honestly say the things rolling around in my mind were not pretty. I squirmed, became anxious, paced, then made a choice to just sit and think. While the experience initially was very uncomfortable, I discovered the power of quite thinking time. Clarity came on a number of fronts, giving me direction on several choices that I had been avoiding in the name of “Life is just too busy to think about it now.” As a result, I now have a new mantra…”sit and think.” Amazing things happen, especially when you focus on the lights-on things in life!
Thank you, Lisa. When I look at the times in my life when I gained the most self-understanding and enjoyed my life most, there was always a daily quiet time to sit and think.