Skip to comments.Hyper-stimulation is an increasing evil about which we should be aware...
Posted on 03/27/2014 1:36:29 AM PDT by markomalley
We live in an age of such overstimulation that it would be unimaginable to people even a hundred years ago, let alone to those of more ancient times. In fact, it is probably more accurate to say we are not simply overstimulated, we are hyper-stimulated. The number and kind of diversions available to us and imposed upon us are almost too numerous to mention. Silence and quietude are almost as unknown to us as is real darkness. We are enveloped in a sea of light such that we are no longer able to behold the stars at night.
And the artificial lights of our time do not simply illumine, they move and flicker as well. Television and computer screens flicker at an enormous rate. It is a rule with television producers that the angle of the picture should change at least every eight seconds, and preferably more often. Many, if not most, of our movies present action at a dizzying pace. Chase scenes, violent and energetic outbursts, and explosions are regular fare. 24-hour news channels, not content to have simply the picture of the story being presented, also have running commentaries and stock tickers moving rapidly across the bottom of the screen. Children love to play video games that feature moving graphics and frantic paces, often involving violent and jerky motions. Thus, even our recreation is often mentally draining, involving hyper-stimulation not only of the eyes, but also of the ears.
Background noises also permeate even what we call the quiet moments. Sometimes here in the big city, in the wake of a heavy snowstorm an eerie silence descends; the usual din of traffic is peculiarly missing. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on this country, I went outside and noticed a very strange silence. The sound of airplanes above us was gone; all air-traffic was grounded. I never realized just how much noise that produced until, for a moment, it was strangely absent.
Many people have never really known true silence. Some complain that they are incapable of sleeping without something on in the background such as the radio, or some noise-producing device. Throughout our day, cell phones ring, and blink away; emails, text messages, tweets and all sorts of other fun, interruptive stimuli bombard us.
Our overall paces are frantic as well. With modern communication and transportation, unreasonable expectations of our availability quickly crush in on us. We are often expected to be on conference calls, using various GoToMeeting formats in the morning, and then by afternoon be 40 miles away at some other meeting or activity. With modern communication cutting across time zones, it is not uncommon that people are expected to be up in the middle of the night attending to business matters with people on the other side of the world.
Thus, in these and many other ways, our lives are harried, distracted, and not just overstimulated, but hyper-stimulated. It is a kind of death by a thousand cuts.
All of this leads to many unhealthy and unholy behavioral issues. While many, for our purposes here, we can distinguish three main areas: distractions, doldrums, and debasement.
I. Distractions - One of the clearest signs that we are hyper-stimulated is our short attention spans. Many, if not most children, after a steady diet of video games and other fast-paced diversions, find it very difficult to sit in a classroom and endure a more normal human pace. They fidget, their minds wander, and they seek in many ways to create the stimulation and chaos that seem normal to them.
Having been trained by television and the Internet to simply change the channel or click away when their interest diminishes, kids just tune out when they feel bored by what the teacher is saying, something that happens very quickly for many of them.
So-called ADHD, not just among children, but also among adults, is the new normal. Sadly, many children are medicated for what is often merely a short attention span due to hyper-stimulation. But since the idea of unplugging and drawing back from excessive stimulation seems unrealistic or even unreasonable, many children are simply put on medication. While there may in fact be authentic cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder it doesnt take too much analysis to see that many, if not most cases, are more environmental in cause than organic.
II. Doldrums - Another result of hyper-stimulation is boredom. When one is hyper-stimulated, ordinary human activities and a normal human pace seem dull and uninteresting. Simple things like engaging in conversation, taking a walk, going to an art gallery, listening to a talk or sermon, enjoying a good meal, or reading a book become almost unendurable to those who are hyper-stimulated.
This leads to a great poverty of soul, since many of the finer things of life must be savored rather than devoured. They require dedication and patience and cannot simply be reduced to quick sound bites.
To overcome boredom, many engage in quick and crass diversions which, even if not evil in themselves, are often shallow, unenriching, and do not feed our higher nature. Such activities also tend to reinforce the hyper-stimulation that fuels them.
Boredom, or even the fear of boredom, has deprived many people of the things that were once considered the best things in life: family, fellowship, art, literature, and deeper personal relationships, not to mention prayer, and communion with God. To the hyper-stimulated only one word comes to mind when these things are mentioned: BORING!
III. Debasement - Another major and modern issue is that our entertainment and pursuits of pleasure become increasingly extreme and often debased. Hyper-stimulation begets a kind of addiction to extremes. Ordinary dramas and adventure movies from 50 years ago seem awfully slow-paced to people today. With new cinematic techniques and special effects, the demand for shocking realism becomes ever more extreme. Violence becomes more raw, themes must become ever stranger and more exotic to get our attention and keep us focused.
The pornography explosion of the last 70 years is another sad illustration of this. Those who end up on the tragic descent that Internet pornography brings, often need to look at stranger, more exotic, and even horribly debased images of human sexuality to get the stimulation they seek. The eye, never satisfied with seeing, looks voraciously for images that are ever more lewd and unnatural, and even criminal. Their hyper-stimulated lust increasingly knows no limits.
On a wider cultural level, other strange and exotic behaviors become daily fair. Behaviors once considered crude and shameful are now paraded about and celebrated by those who crave evermore-debased levels of stimulation. Any normal person from merely 50 years ago would scarcely believe how ugly, crude, lewd, and debased our culture has become.
GK Chesterton well described the modern trend in his book the everlasting Man:
The effect of this staleness (boredom) is the same everywhere; it is seen in all the drug taking and drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense .They try to stab their nerves to life They are walking in their sleep and trying to wake themselves up with nightmares. (The Everlasting Man, p. 291)
Yes, welcome to the increasingly horrifying world of the extreme, exotic, immodest, and just plain strange. Welcome to so-called body art (tattooing), body piercing, tongue-splitting, and any number of other self-destructive behaviors and body alterations, along with crude and destructive behaviors. The carnival sideshow seems to have gone mainstream.
So much of it just comes back to being hyper-stimulated and thereby wanting to flee to the strange and exotic as a way to stay entertained and, frankly, awake. What is merely interesting is no longer enough; it must be shocking, edgy, extreme, and usually just plain awful in order to attract attention.
It may be hard, but its good advice to try to slow down a bit to the pace of normal human life, the way God intended it. We can start by turning off the television and the radio just a bit; perhaps little less Internet (except for this blog). Maybe we can rediscover some old pleasures like walking, talking, and dining (an image for the kingdom of God from the Road to Emmaus). Perhaps we might actually consider sitting down with people and having a real conversation; maybe gathering the family together for meals. Perhaps it involves learning to say no a little more. Maybe it involves recognizing that there are diminishing returns that come from over scheduling our children in extracurricular activities, and that it is good to let them just be home sometimes to rest and get to know the family.
Whatever it is, you and the Lord decide; but hyper-stimulation is an increasing evil about which we should be aware. We do well to discover it, to name it, to learn its moves, and then to rebuke its increasing power in our lives.
Msgr Pope ping
Hyper-stimulation? Can that happen from music with a lot going on?
My ‘technique’ is to look at some of these things from the perspective of a critic and not so much as a consumer under the influence, which is what I was as a younger person.
It needed some pictures.
Even without the religious angle, so much of what he has to say here is true. I see the effects in my children, not being interested in classic films for instance (too boring, and have tried to counter it while raising them. I think I’ve always known what the issues were, but this article has given me more insight into the problem.
"Be still and know that I am God"
Good article,thanks for posting.
bump for later
Very interesting article.
“Communists must always consider that of all the arts the motion picture is the most important.” Vladimir Lenin
Imagine being alive in the 1700’s.
How might it have affected you, say if you came in off the farm to trade in town, and found a small, traveling ensemble playing the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven...
I would be overwhelmed...with such richness of sensory input.
Coming from relative silence to hearing - perhaps for the first time - such music? It awes me.
I like Rock, but this is a bit annoying. Here we are, it's a beautiful day, the birds are singing. It's just not the time or place to hear the Rolling Stones or even the Moody Blues.
Why spoil the quiet beauty of nature?
Good article. Reminds me that I did not spend near enough time in the treestand last year.......
I agree with him.
God tells us *Be still and know that I am God.*
I agree with the thread and i think that is why all we have will be destroyed.
People have never been able to control them selves because their desire for more will not let them.
The Government will never control its self because its desire is to control every one else.
Industry will not control its self because that is how it survives.
I believe God is going to see to it that this crazy house gets torn down.
Most homeschoolers are probably aware of this. I could see it in my kids and still do. Computer games do rewire the brain.
But this article articulates it in a wonderful way and is worth reading.
Wow! Msgr. Pope’s articles are always good, but this one is just chock full of pearls of wisdom.
Absolutely! I teach music, and it is very difficult to peel some children away from their iPads, iPhones, Tablets, Video Games, Wide-Screen Plasma TV’s, hand-held devices, etc to get them to sit still for even a half hour. These children are often “Special Needs” (my specialty) and suffer from varying degrees of Hyperactivity, ADHD, Autism, and behavioral Disorders.
I have no doubt that “Hyper-stimulation” is a contributing factor.
Some wise words from the Monseigneur.
Yes, I see it in myself as well.
It becomes an addiction. And I’ve noticed that the kids get irritable when they’re allowed to “silo” themselves off from everyone else, regardless of the activity.
**So-called ADHD, not just among children, but also among adults, is the new normal. Sadly, many children are medicated **
My theory on this has a lot to do with changing a child’s diet, taking out all the additives and cooking from scratch.
I agree also. Im so fortunate to have been raised on a farm during a much quieter time. We didnt even have a television until I was 16. Quiet times were common and that didnt mean punishment either.
We just recently had a guest speaker for our church’s men’s prayer ministry. He gave 9 disciplines that we as Christians should be practicing regularly. One of them was ‘Silence and Solitude’.
Although it is one of many ways to get it, my favorite is to go walking in the woods. Plenty of those to go to where I live.
Indeed, you were fortunate. All of this new technology has its place, but people tend to misuse it.
And I must be one of those people. I cannot drive a car without the radio on.
Some people become so lost in the hyper-stimulation that they reach a point of no return.
However, most of us can learn to slow things down and break the habit of hyper-stimulation. At least, that’s what I’ve been trying to do with my family.
I read somewhere recently where they did a poll and found out that people are even checking their iPhones during sex.
How bad is that????
Well, there is something to be said for staying awake on a road trip.....
I always listen to the radio while I'm driving.
However, mr. mm and I are flying out tomorrow for a week and a half in FL and it's ALWAYS a wonderful time to unwind. I take a lot of walks on the beach and get a lot of God time in. It's like going on a retreat for me (even though we stay with my m-i-l, which could account for the long walks on the beach come to think of it.)
That is REALLY bad.
A few years ago it was just ears: boomboxes, walkmen, etal.
Then came the INCREDIBLE! MP3 player in all of it's expressions.
Now the folks have VIDEO to go along with it!!.
Cars are just overwhelming in the info explosion on their dashboards.
Hardly anything can be 'repaired' these days. It's cheaper to toss it and buy something newer and even MORE complex!
(Hope yer MIL don’t post on FR! ;^)
Must be why I like to go to Utah and wander around rocks for long periods...
Nope. She’s in her 80’s and severely computer challenged.
He misses the point about schools. True, hyper-stimulation makes school harder for the students, but it’s still a boring and frustrating experience by design.
School wastes an enormous amount of the child's life.
My husband is tutoring a 12 year old boy in arithmetic. He has asked the boy to spend one hour each day practicing math.
Last week he reviewed the boy's schedule for a typical school day. This one hour to practice math is 25% of the boy's free time. The rest of the day is entirely consumed with getting ready for school, traveling to school, getting home from school, and school assigned homework.
My homeschoolers rarely spent more than 2 hours a day in formal homeschooling. The rest of the day they **played**. It was an amazing phenomena to watch but very young child, if there is no TV or other electronics, can and **do** spend hours ( even days, weeks, and months) playing ( ie: “working”) on projects that interest them. Gradually, their play became their adult work and highly refined adult hobbies.
How can children learn to concentrate if they are never given the opportunity and their lives are constantly interrupted by bells, schedules, and appointments?
When I attended college in the early 70s students talked to each other as we waited in the hall for the door to the class to open. Not any more! The students’ eyes are glued to their smart phone screens and **everyone** has both ears stopped up with ear buds. They are social ( I suppose) just not with each other.
Too bad the young people will never see or hear this, or will tune it out as “boring.”
If ADD were a problem, I would do as you suggested and then also remove the child from school and get rid of all the electronics ( especially TV and video games).
Good advice and changing their home environment/school environment diet too.