Take a break from everything

Photo credit: sick pea deviant art.</>

I saw an interesting post on AskReddit today. The question was simple:

Would you stay in an isolated room for 30 days with nothing but food, water, and a toilet for 5 million dollars?

On the surface it seems like a no brainer. OF COURSE you would. When you start to dig deeper though, you realize the challenge is much harder than you would assume. Solitary confinement has been well studied and the effects to the psyche can be catastrophic. Complete isolation and sensory deprivation leads to a host of psychological problems including psychosis, hallucinations, increased risk of suicide, anxiety, and panic attacks. These symptoms can crop up in as little as 3 days. In other words, it’s much harder than you think it would be. Oh yeah, no clock to tell the time and no windows! I’m going stir crazy just thinking about it now.

Hell, most people can’t go 30 minutes without frantically checking their phone let alone spend 30 days with literally nothing to do.

The human brain has a difficult time adjusting to a world where there is zero stimulation and zero social contact.

The thought experiment is not without its merits however. I think it’s crucial for people to periodically cut out everything from their life, especially all substances and compounds. Yes, even coffee and nootropics.

The thing is, it’s crucial to discover who you are outside the scope of the things that influence you. Who are you when you’re alone and there is nothing to numb the sound of that voice inside your head? Who are you when there is nothing to smoke, nothing to drink, no pills to pop, no TV to watch, no sugary foods to eat, no cell phone to mindlessly numb yourself with?

To date it’s been 90 days since I’ve drank alcohol. Since abstaining I’ve had to readjust to society (and mainly myself) in a brand new way. I’ve discovered parts of my inner psyche I was covering up with drinking. A lot of suppressed shit started bubbling to the surface like a backed up septic tank on the verge of explosion. I had to relearn how to be myself in a social setting without alcohol. I had to deal with my own neuroticism head on and learn to handle real emotions again. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also the BEST thing I’ve ever done.

It was a little mini vision quest of sorts.

Some Native American tribes would introduce the young men of their tribe into manhood by organizing so called vision quests. These quests usually started with a period of fasting followed by complete and total isolation in the wilderness. The young men would have intense visions and dreams which were then interpreted by a shaman. The vision quest experience was integral to the boy becoming a man and learning his place in the world and within the tribe.

To someone living in modern society, fasting for multiple days and then isolating themselves in the wilderness sounds like suicide. We are so hooked and addicted to everything we don’t even know who we are. So afraid of what lies beneath the noise we choose self numbing instead of self discovery. For true self discovery to take place a period of intense stimulatory abstinence must take place.

My theory is people go crazy in solitary confinement because they lack knowledge of self. They do not recognize themselves outside of stimulation. When they come face to face with their own reflection they panic because they themselves are a stranger.

This is why periods of abstinence from everything is crucial.

It’s cutting everything out and taking a hard look in the mirror to make friends with the true person hiding behind the mask.

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