Most people would rather self-administer painful electric shocks than to be alone with their thoughts.
In the short charming video above, a normal person was placed in isolation to determine the strategies he would use to escape the crazy-making effects of the boredom of isolation. It is amazing how quickly his sense of normality broke down under the effects of isolation. The moment when he almost “broke out of his cage” but chose not to, was poignant, as was his growing confusion afterward.
Monotony is something that most modern people are not prepared for. It is not just that we have been stranded in the shallow water of constant distraction. For most of us, nothing in our lives has prepared us to be alone with ourselves and our own thoughts.
The video also discusses “solitary confinement” for prisoners, interviewing a former convict on his experience with punishment in “the hole.” Isolation seems not only to be a form of punishment, but a form of torture as well.
In the age of Chinese coronavirus lockdowns, social isolation can be torture — as suggested by the increased rates of suicides and other dysfunctions we are seeing. Even when people have internet, books, telephones, television, and can go out for walks and to the grocery store, the disruption to normal face to face social activities with people outside the home can be devastating for many.
One group of people seems to do better with isolation than others: long time experienced meditators. Inexperienced meditators can have problems with social isolation just like anyone else.
It takes weeks of disciplined meditation before the neuroplasticity of different brain centers provides the practitioner with some safe internal places to go to be alone.