No one can live in isolation, but we hate interference. we are inundated from morning to night by so many people and so much information that sometimes we long for a few precious moments of quiet alone.
What would happen to us if we were completely free of others' influences? An experiment was once conducted in which blindfolded volunteers with their ears plugged were each placed alone in a completely silent room. They came into contact with no one and were completely cut off from all sources of information. Nothing was required of the volunteers except that each stay isolated in one of these rooms. At first the volunteers slept, but they could not sleep forever. They began talking or singing to themselves out of boredom, and eventually they started to hallucinate. By then they were ready to be hypnotized. Asked under hypnosis how much two plus three was, they would answer five, but if they were chided, "But you know, two plus three is six," they would quickly apologize for their "mistake." Psychiatry says that such eagerness to please arises from the human intolerance of solitude. The experiment demonstrates how important it is to maintain constant interactions with the people and events around us.
To be completely cut off from the world, to be deprived of all stimulus, is to lose touch with our en, the continuity of people and things that defines our being. People left in such a state of limbo for long periods are bound to show signs of imbalance. Alone, with no place and no one to turn to, we begin to doubt our own existence. We cannot confirm our own being in a vacuum.
The Chinese character-compound for "human being" literally means "person and relationship" and symbolized the interrelations binding all human beings.
Humans are social animals. Alone, we lose our humanity--in psychiatric terms, we suffer an identity crisis.
Even as we grow and change, we maintain the conviction that, deep down, we are part of the same continuum. Losing this sense of unity plunges us into confusion. The self exists in relation to the people and things around it; we cannot live without confirming this relationship.
Buddhism for Everyday Life