Why Do Our Thoughts Hurt?
A recent study in the prestigious science journal “Nature” showed that test subjects preferred getting mild but painful electric shocks to sitting alone with their own thoughts. Religious texts from Hinduism, Buddhism. Sikhism and even the Abrahamic religions all speak of the pain overthinking brings to us.
But why? Why should our own minds cause us to suffer?
The reason is two-fold.
The first is boredom. The modern mind is used to a bombardment of sensory input. Images on media, phones, soundtrack, blaring music, machine sounds, traffic sounds and loud noises. In ancient times sounds were the sounds of nature and there were no loud noises except for the rare thunderclap. People didn’t read. There were no machines.There were few bright colors. Human beings had the hunter’s ability to remain still and quiet for long periods of time. We have lost this ability unless we specifically train for it. Consequently, we become instantly bored if not receiving constant sensory input. We use this as punishment for our worst criminals who are put in small cells with no sensory stimulation.
The second is egoic self-criticism. Our ego is a natural part of us. It is that part of our “mind” which spurs us on to do the things we need to do in order to survive. It also pushes us to be more attractive to mates and more materially successful so that we are secure in our lives. The problem is that when left alone that voice will often ruminate i.e. chew the same thoughts over and over again. As it does this it generates anxiety as a low-level feeling of fear in our abdomen. This fear may build. This feeling is painful and persistent even to the point of blowing things way out of proportion or even, strange as this may be, making things up to create artificial fears.
This is why.