José Luis Ricón on death and the Stockholm syndrome
While discussing the stories we tell ourselves about death, José Luis Ricón Fernández de la Puente points out a very striking phenomenon:
Erik Torenberg: What do you think about the cultural problem around lifespan extension? Many people are aversed to extending lifespan. Do you think that that’s something that will just get over as we get closer to the technology? What do you think about the cultural resistance there? Because I think that’s holding a lot of people back now for maybe working on it, maybe having more money, more government funding.
José Ricón: Aubrey de Grey calls this cultural resistance the “pro-death trance.” He argues that because aging and death is so prevalent — for all of our history, we haven’t been able to get over it — we have developed this idea that it is actually OK.
It’s like a Stockholm syndrome of some kind. You think that the bad thing is actually good. We begin to think, “Maybe it’s good to have death (or aging). That’s what’s bring meaning to our lives.”
It seems to me that this psychological phenomenon is much more common within our lives than we realize.
I would say the same thing happens not only with death (or kidnapping as in the original Stockholm syndrome). It seems to also happen with tragedies, like diseases or accidents.
In fact, I’d posit that a similar phenomenon happens with seemingly “good” things too. Look, for example, to what happens after people get children. Being a parent is the thing that brings meaning to many, many parents’ lives.
What’s behind all that? I don’t know. Maybe there is something about the mean-making machine in our heads that makes us twist many of the “challenges” we face in life into something good — or even desirable.