Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Be with Your Thoughts or Electrocute Yourself, which would you pick?

A recent research study found that “we'd rather electrocute ourselves than be alone with our thoughts”.

OMG, I have been writing for years about changing your life through journaling, mediation (Me Time) or just deep breathing for only 5 to 10 minutes with yourself a day, without any external distracted or stimulation.   I require that each client spend time with themselves without a book, computer, phone, television, tablet or radio. I asked that they have nothing to stare at or take away their focus on during that time. The objective was to improve their relationship with themselves, reduce stress and improve brain function.

I cannot tell you how many of my clients cannot or had difficulty completing this simple task. Even though spending just 5 minutes a day with themselves has been proven to improve their life and health (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually) as well as release stresses they were holding onto, people can’t seem to complete even a few minutes. The excuses I hear from my clients are “Oh I forgot”, “I am too busy, but I meant to”, “I tried, but just I couldn't focus”, I couldn't find any time”, or “I get too anxious”.

With those clients that have a history of being bullied, harassed, abused or traumatized when asked if they did their 5 minutes I am told “I didn't like the thoughts that went through my head”, “I could not stop my thoughts long enough to focus just on my breathing as you asked me to do. It felt wrong”, “While I was doing it a negative thought jump into my head and I could not get rid of it once I stopped meditating” and “Truthfully I can’t stand to be with me. I do not think I deserve it”.

The overall underlying messages I get from my clients are basically that being with their own thoughts or being in their own skin is uncomfortable. Above all alone or quiet time should be avoided at all cost. When alone most of them have either a TV running somewhere in the house or music playing to fill their head with distraction.

The fundamental human question is have we lost the ability to be alone with our own thoughts?

Proof is in the Study

I found an article in the Washington Post about a study done by Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. This article reported on a study about being alone with your thoughts vs getting electrocuted, yes you read correctly, electrocuted.  The study was simple, all the participants had to do was enter an empty room, sit down, and think for six to 15 minutes. The only requirement was that the participants had to be in the room without a cellphone, a book, or a television screen to stare at. The reporter from the Washington Post quoted Dr. Wilson as saying “The assignment quickly became too much for the participants to handle. In fact, even when the individuals were given time to "prepare" for their time alone — meaning that they were able to plan what they would think about during their moments of solitude — the participants still found the task hard to complete.” “People didn't like it much being alone with themselves and their thoughts."

So the researchers decided to make the study a little harder. Each participant was given an option of doing something else while in the room alone, besides just thinking. What the researchers came up with wasn't exactly pleasant. Instead of just sitting sit and alone, participants were now allowed to electrocute themselves as many times as they liked with a device containing a 9 volt battery. Still, for many, such an option wouldn't seem desirable.

But the study found that most participants decided they would rather shock themselves on an average of seven times during their time in the room and sit in solitude and think. An interesting facet in this study was that one male participant in the study “shocked himself 190 times over a period of 15 minutes” just so he didn't have to be alone with his thoughts. 

My Take on the Study 

When reading this article and study I discovered that participants, both men and women would rather spend their time stimulated by outside stimuli, even if it was an electrical shock from 9 volt battery, than to spend quiet time with only their thoughts. Why is that? I believe that most people, when forced to sit without external stimulation, have thoughts that they cannot accept. We as a society have been constantly inundated with outside stimulation, good and bad, for so long that we don’t understand how to just be quiet with our thoughts. Gone are the days of sitting on the front porch just being.

Other Reasons

      1. Time

More and more people do not have the time to complete even the simplest tasks in a day. You have to clean the house, care for kids, interact with friends and family, prepare meals, work, etc…. Being busy and fulfilling others expectation has become the standard in most people’s lives. Everyone races from one task to another without a thought or hesitation. No wonder stress and stress related illnesses are so rampant and the number one focus is on performance and not being with self. Life has become a moving grindstone that you can’t stop.

2. Stimulation

Our society is becoming addicted to being stimulated all of the time. Many people would rather be stimulated by drugs, alcohol, and all electronic devices and let’s not forget social media rather than being with themselves. 


This study supports what I been saying in my articles for many years about thought addiction and the inner critic. More people than we thought have difficulty with the thoughts that run through their heads. Let’s just simply get back to basics and improve the relationship with our thoughts, basically ourselves. With practice the act of spending time with ourselves will becomes easier and more enjoyable. Make more time in your schedule for you.

(The study was conducted by Timothy Wilson was published in Science Magazine, 2014)


  1. This is sad and doesn't surprise me.

    1. Hey Janice,

      True, huh! We have gotten so far away from ourselves. We can no longer tolerate our own thoughts because they are becoming more and more external validation. "I am what my outside world believes I am."

      You can really see it in our young people who communicate on electronic devices rather than with their words. But electrocution??

      Thanks for your comment.

      Blessings, Dr. Bill


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