It’s Just Noise

I finally moved into an apartment without upstairs neighbors. So I don’t have to try to block out the sound of walking from above. I no longer have to tell people that it sounds like my neighbors are playing basketball with bowling balls or rolling their refrigerator across the floor.

My new apartment had one thing though that drove me crazy. The refrigerator was too loud. Whenever it whined, I had to stop meditating, reading, whatever I was doing. I tensed up. I got into the habit of unplugging it for short periods of time throughout the day to have 10 or 20 minutes of mechanical silence.

This morning something switched in me.

I have been meditating on becoming a new person, freer from habits that held me back from reaching my full potential. Regular readers of this blog know that I had already freed myself from nearly all of my OCD symptoms, something I am eternally grateful for. However, in recent days, I had been struggling a bit with old mental rituals popping back into my head, and working on resisting the vestiges of OCD from my reading behavior, where I feel urges to go back and re-read words. Other minor rituals were creeping back, like likely biting my tongue repetitively, and feeling compelled to touch the spoon to another surface when I was stirring food or a drink.

But this morning, something switched.

After my meditation, I felt freer than before. When by habit I went to unplug the refrigerator, I noticed that the machine’s sounds weren’t bothering me. I decided to check my reading. I read a chapter of a book without feeling any inclination to re-read words, and that’s even with the fridge whining the background (a double whammy).

The meditation I did this morning was part of a series from Dr. Joe Dispenza. These meditations have been helping me let go of who I was — the personality that I tried to define by likes and dislikes and habitual behavior, and open up to the true, unlimited Self.

I was able to reframe the noise of the fridge as just that — noise. And I realized that how I react to it was entirely, 100%, within my control. This concept is something that I had long thought about when it came to reacting to other people’s behavior; if somebody does something contrary to what you’d like them to do, your emotional reaction is generated from within. You get to decide whether you care about it, or whether you can treat it as just noise.

I started thinking about other noise in my life that I don’t need to react to — emotionally or with coping mechanisms like OCD. After all, when you focus on a reaction, it just amplifies the feeling. My Twitter feed is 10% cute animals, 10% people complaining about personal problems and 80% political outrage. If you engage with social media you know what I mean: People like to bring up something outrageous that someone has done who has a political perspective different from their own.

I’m a long-time political activist, and I care about all of the issues people post angry, often misleading, simplistic and uninformed memes about. But regardless of the veracity of the posted content, I don’t have to feed my daily inner rage with it. I already know that bad things are bad — it doesn’t benefit me or anyone else for me to constantly produce stress hormones or to hit like and repost so everyone knows I’m one of them and not one of the other group. In other words, I can accept that much of what pops into my computer or phone screens is just noise. And noise is not good or evil. Noise isn’t sentient. Noise is just… noise. And I can let it be.

Essays, stories & poetry about OCD, culture and society, by Eric

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store