Last week the NYT posted an article about how busy folks were. The premise was simple–people are so busy these days, they do not have time to think. But the really interesting part of the article was a review of a set of studies by a group of psychologists on the great lengths people will go to resist introspection.
In 11 experiments, with over 700 participants, individuals reported discomfort in being in a room alone from 6 to 15 minutes with no modes of distraction (no TV, no computer, no phone, no one to talk to). And in one experiment in particular, over 65% of men and 15% of women chose to administer electric shocks to themselves, rather than be alone with their thoughts.
Even as a psychologist myself, I was quite surprised by these results, as were the researchers who ran the studies and many others in the psychological community. But the rationale for why people go to such great lengths to avoid introspection is curious to me. To date, most psychologists have posited that people experience discomfort when left with their thoughts because their minds immediately focus on all of the things wrong with their lives and all of the things they do not have.
Yet for me, it is when I’m alone, when I’m meditating, when I create the space for reflection and introspection that I most often feel gratitude, not an overwhelming sense of deprivation or negativity. In fact, when I am feeling negative, my tried and true remedy is solitude. In the silence, the mental silence, I find peace and am often overwhelmed with appreciation for the people and blessings in my life.
Putting my nerdy, social psychological hat on, I’m wondering if gratitude could be the antidote to these findings, which I think are pretty dang dismal. Pretty simply an experiment could be designed where one group is primed with notions of gratitude and the other group comes into the lab just like these 700 other people did. If you find that the primed group is more comfortable with their thoughts, then we may just be better off than this initial research seems to suggest. So, with that, I wish you a Mindful Monday! 😀