If you just let your mind wander, what happens if it won’t come back?
These and other thoughts, more and less profound, bobbed up like ocean debris as I conducted an experiment and let my mind wander with no distractions for 15 minutes.
I decided to do the experiment when I read an article from the journal Science about the fact that a group of volunteers were so bored or uncomfortable with their own thoughts that they resorted to zapping themselves with electric shock rather than continue to think.
I found the study rather…well, shocking.
On the Meyers-Briggs, I straddle introvert and extrovert but, maybe because I am an only child, I require silent space to renew. So I deliberately gave myself 15 minutes of uninterrupted time and let my mind play.
Tasks undone crowd my thoughts. Plot points for my novel. The progress of a spider up a far wall in the bedroom. Okay, time up. No, it hasn’t even been a minute.
I used to write public service announcements. Sixty seconds and then, when radio spots got shorter, 30-second and then 15. A minute is an eternity on radio. And apparently, also in my mind.
My fingers twitch, reaching for my phone to check social media and email, but I resist.
In the article, 42 of the 55 participants said they would pay to avoid a repetition of the electric shock. But when left with only their thoughts for company, 12 of the 18 men and six of the 24 women chose to zap themselves again. This suggests to me that women are better able to sit and think, men more comfortable with doing than thinking. Or maybe women just don’t like pain.
Two minutes. That’s how long I last. I know that boredom is good for creativity. And, I have meditated and I know how to sit quietly. So I know that if I focus on meditation and let random thoughts bob up naturally, I can do it. But without that focus, my thoughts wheel out into increasingly bizarre tangents.
Why five fingers? Why not six or four? What if I could clone myself? Where is that spider now?
Oh, for gods’ sake. Zzzzzap!