Thursday, September 11, 2014

Immortality and the future of OCD

What business does a psychiatrist have writing science fiction? Creating future worlds provides an opportunity to explore how timeless psychological conflicts might unfold within novel circumstances. While imagining the future draws on my background in the physical and biological sciences, discovering how changes in our surroundings might affect our emotions, idiosyncrasies and relationships intrigues me even more as a social scientist.

Ray Mettler, one of my protagonists, is a deeply flawed man who struggles with crippling compulsions and obsessions, not the least of which is his overwhelming fear of dying. The extreme measures he takes to prevent death stymie his capacity to experience pleasure or to live a meaningful life.

Early in The Methuselarity Transformation, Ray is offered an extraordinary opportunity to continue to live long after his body has died. In a single stroke, his prospect of oblivion vanishes forever. How might he change once the driving force behind his most prominent behaviors no longer exists? Will those behaviors vanish or will their hold upon him, and the demons from his past that lie beneath them, remain too strong to resist?

Our ability to thrive is intricately entwined with our quest for connectedness with others as well as our capacity to be alone. Our shared mortality can be both a powerful force that binds us together and the source of crushing loneliness. Imagine then how Ray’s newfound immortality might affect his relationships with those in his life who are still mortal and whom he will eventually leave behind.

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