So there’s the study that people have been passing around FB lately, where participants were put in a room and told to think about anything they wanted. Then they were asked after the short amount of time how they felt about the experience. Many said that they were bored or found it unpleasant. The next round was a little different, the participants were told to sit and think about anything they wanted, but they also had the choice/ ability to give themselves a shock. Many of the participants, that previously had reported they would pay not to get shocked, chose to shock themselves instead of just sit and think.
When I first read the articles about this study I shook my head and thought it sad and interesting. I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts and while most are not pleasant, I didn’t think I would be so uncomfortable with them as to take an electric shock.
But then I thought about it a little more, and I really looked into those times I was alone with my thoughts, no music on, no distractions, and I realized that while I might not think to take a shock, I am always looking for an escape from my own, inactive and unproductive company.
My primary method of escape? To do lists. When things get quiet and I find myself with some down time, when the thoughts start to churning my immediate reaction is to just find something else to cross off the list. And while I might have initially felt superior to those who took the shock because I thought I was just fine being with my own thoughts I realized real quick that I might be worse.
After reading the articles and studies again it seemed more that the participants that took the shock were just bored. Stimulation was stimulation and the shock provided that. It wasn’t that the shock felt better than the thoughts swirling in their head, it was that they wanted something physical to do.
I, on the other hand, though not taking the shock so to speak, turn to my to do list because my thoughts are that unpleasant. Because when things get real quiet, when the music is off and there’s no place to race to next, the demons/lizard brain/judger comes out to play.
So, instead of that, it’s “what’s on the list, what can I do, what can I learn, how can I improve myself?”Because then I’m okay, then, at the very least doing something, anything towards a goal. Something that makes me worthy.
Worthy of what you might ask?
There have been many answers over the years. Worthy of this person’s interest, worthy of my parents’ pride, worthy of my friends affection… But while it would be easier to pin it on someone else, I think what it really comes down to is being worthy of my own positive feelings.
At least if I make some delicious cookies that other people like then I can feed them. At least if I get a chore done I’m close to self sufficient and independent. At least if I make a website I’m trying to be a contender in the current job market. At least if I curl my hair and do my make up I’m pretty.
If I made crappy cookies, if I didn’t get things done and needed help, if I just threw my hair up and went out in sweatpants, if I relied on my old kind of resume… then what would I be worthy of? Certainly not a good, exciting job, or an interested gaze, or friends’ affection. That’s what comes out in the quiet times.
I’m unworthy because I don’t have a sparkling resume, I’m not worthy because I have an air mattress, because I didn’t get the ultimate dream job (I don’t even know what that looks like) days after landing in Nashville, because I don’t have a Valentine on Valentine’s Day and my ex does. Wow. That one just came off the fingertips.
Most of my life I’ve been telling myself I’m not enough, that I need to be more. I need to be cleaner, smarter, prettier, more in shape, healthier, more put together, more creative, more consistent, more… shit… just typing this out is exhausting. I’ve been in an impossible labyrinth where I choose one path and I scold myself for not taking the other while expecting myself to get through the one I did choose like a pro. Are there labyrinth pros?
No wonder I use to feel like I was pulling myself into tiny pieces keeping them just slightly apart so that the shape of me was still present but was by no means together or whole. There’s no winning, it’s a constant war.
I wish I was writing this because I found the solution to save the day. I didn’t. It’s Valentine’s Day and I’ve spent the day hiding in my room. I did go to the gym, (see judger, I’m worthy, I promise) so that can be counted as a win, right?
How does one get around this? Am I now suppose to sit still and just listen to my brain for days on end until it just doesn’t phase me anymore? Am I suppose to go out and do more things? I’m not good at not knowing what the next step is, it makes me feel dumb, lazy and yup, you guessed it, unworthy.
I don’t know how to feel worthy of things/affection/being alive when I’m sitting still. I barely feel worthy when I’m running around like a crazy person.
The judger is screaming as I’m writing this, telling me I better not post for a myriad of different reasons. I think I’m going to post it anyway. It’s hard pretending like everything is perfect.
image credit: Viktor Hanacek found here