Do people who think aging and death are good things have Stockholm Syndrome? A guide to changing our perceptions about aging.
by Elena Milova
Recently longevity activist Michael Geer composed an article explaining why some people embrace and even go to great lengths to defend the idea that they will age and die.
Indeed, it is a very similar situation to Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm Syndrome (also known as "terror bonding") is a paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages develop positive feelings toward their captors - sometimes, even defending their captors and refusing to act against them. Over time, a hostage victim may come to think that the abuse he or she has experienced was done out of love on the part of the captor.
For those who want to see a distant future this kind of thinking is not productive, as it interferes with counteracting the danger. As a psychologist I would like to give some tips to people experiencing Stockholm Syndrome towards aging and death.
1) Try to admit that the mindshift that made you see aging and death as a good thing is just the way your brain is learning to survive the shock and the fear and the helplessness. Loving and justifying a harmful factor is just a temporary distortion of your vision.
2) Stockholm Syndrome works by making people feel weak and totally controlled by the abuser. When thinking about aging and death try to remember that you have a free will and ability to fight back. We humans have already extended our lives twofold by developing different technologies, and we can improve these results to eventually bring aging under medical control.
Even if you are not a scientist, you can take some steps towards the solution. Reach out to the advocacy and research organizations to become an activist or a regular donor. Even re-posting new articles and donating 5 dollars a month to longevity research projects will protect you against feeling defenseless and powerless. There are allways some ongoing campaigns you could take part in - for instance, OncoSENS, trying to develop the ways to control telomerase-dependent cancers
3) Big problems of an unknown nature scare us much more. Learn how to divide the problem to smaller parts (What processes constitute aging? How to address each one of them? Read about it in the book by Aubrey de Grey "Ending Aging") and observe the progress in each direction. Talk to people who know the current situation, the real level of progress and the ways to foster it. Find out if you can lend a hand in some of the research projects addressing this or that part of the problem.
Focus on the solution and the people working on it, not on the scale of the task, it is tempting to think, aging is too complex, we can not do anything about it. By breaking down the task into smaller manageable goals you can remove unnecessary stress and feeling of helplessness.
4) Try to set and achieve some new goals related to defeating aging. Every result reached in time is a small victory giving you more strength to carry on the next fight. If you are a longevity activist, ensure your to dos are getting done in time, ensure you succeed. Defeating aging is a long-term project and you need this positive reinforcement to keep going. Reading "Getting things done" by David Allen and using some of his tips will certainly help you to be more productive.
5) Set up a new attitude towards aging and death and vocalize it. Admit your anger, because anger is an evolutionary mechanism pointing at an obstacle or a danger, and giving people additional power to overcome it. Admit your disgust, as its purpose is to show you what should be eliminated as a harmful and dangerous factor. Start telling other people what you really feel and think about aging, and try to surround yourself with those who feel the same way.
These tips will help you to see real face of aging and death, and act to protect your true value: life.