You’re trapped in your own head. So what?
If you’re human, every experience you ever have gets trapped inside your head. (Along with everything you’ve ever thought.)
You experience what you experience the way you experience it … and that’s all there is to that. Once you die, that goes with you.
Let’s say you go through an unusual sequence of events that changes your life. Only you will ever really understand what that was like—and only you will really care.
You can try to force that concept (the concept of what you’ve experienced) to exist outside of yourself through different forms of communication. But good luck with that.
Note: by “communication,” I don’t just mean by conventional verbal communication. This manifests in all kinds of communication forms, including the basics of how you present yourself to others.
Quick aside on image crafting
People often present themselves to others in ways that don’t aim toward honest communication. They’re not trying to share their real unique experiences. Instead people often try to manufacture the appearance of having had experiences they haven’t actually ever had—also known as “image crafting.”
Full disclosure: I hate image crafting. It introduces a necessary level of skepticism in how we interpret each other. Maybe a post for another time.
Communicating completely is impossible*
*Not to be confused with “communicating is completely impossible.” ;) I do not believe that.
Image crafting aside, even if you’re communicating honestly, and even if the people you’re communicating to want to understand you, they probably won’t be able to. At least not entirely.
We all have different points of view, and often we fail to recognize this up front. This makes it really easy to miss the mark both in how we explain ourselves and in how we interpret other people. My friend Jayson explores some of the challenges of communication and interpretation in this blog post.
I see the human experience of being trapped in one’s own head affecting people in different ways.
Maybe you’re like me, and it eats at you a lot. We’ll get to how I live with that in a minute. ;)
But the weird thing is (weird to me, at least), this whole deal doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people.
Not everyone minds being trapped in their own head
There are ways you can go through life never really feeling this way—or never really being bothered by it. Now I don’t relate to this experience, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about it.
Here are some of the ways I explain it.
1. Relating strongly to others makes us feel less alone.
If you feel as though there are many people with thoughts, interests, and feelings like yours, it probably alleviates the sense of isolation.
It can especially help if you interact with people who express thoughts, interests, and feelings that sound similar to yours in day-to-day life.
We’ve all seen that exchange on social media where one of our more eloquent friends posts something, and they get comments that say something along the lines of, “That’s exactly what I think, but you said it better than I ever could.”
That’s an example of relating to someone’s expressed experience so much that you associate their experience with your own.
If we see other people expressing thoughts similar to the thoughts that we feel most strongly, it can create a sense that our thoughts and experiences are shared, even if they’re just similar.
But similarity helps.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that similarity to others makes us feel less alone.
2. Staying busy keeps it out of mind.
A lot of us keep our lives full of things that require attention and energy. Many people like filling their lives to an extend that they avoid ever having those moments of introspection.
If you never allow yourself time to stare into the void, you don’t have to think about the void.
3. Your focus makes it irrelevant.
I’ve had friends who like to keep their minds focused on the simple enjoyment of everyday experiences. These people manage to simply focus on their sensations when things are happening, and not the greater meaning. This can keep a sense of isolation at bay.
Spiritual beliefs also make a big difference. Most Christians, for example, feel that God is walking through their personal experience with them. Beliefs on this subject vary widely even within Christianity—I’m a Christian and I don’t quite have the same ideas on this topic as a lot of fellow Christians. Maybe it’s a side-effect of my skeptical nature, but I don’t derive the same sense of comfort from the idea, either.
Being trapped inside your head drives creative expression
Like you, I’m trapped inside my head. And it clearly bothers me. Since you’re reading this blog post, it’s probably safe to assume it bothers you, too.
And this sense about being completely locked in with my experiences on my own has done something to how I live.
I’ve developed a violent sense of urgency to create—almost like a rage or a hunger. Being trapped inside my own head drives me hard to explore new means of expression. Even though I believe I can’t fix the problem, I can’t just resign myself to it. I have to do something about it; I couldn’t stop myself if I tried.
Many (if not most) of my life experiences don’t make the greatest fuel for conversation, and just aren’t very relatable. This is true of a lot of us—the human experience is weird like that. Nobody lives the same life—and we only really connect with people on things we relate to. So I shouldn’t expect people to care about things they don’t relate to.
All this fills me with an animalistic thirst for making things, whether it’s visual art, music, or writing.
And I guess that’s not all bad.
It’s not that by creating we can force people to relate to us. But maybe it can contribute to a bigger sense of meaning and connection—as part of a fight against chaos and isolation. That’s what I set my sights on.
Many of us could probably stand to learn from a lot of the approaches above for peace of mind.
But peace of mind probably wasn’t the driving force behind The Raising of Lazarus, Beethoven’s 5th, or Starry Night. ;)
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.