How to treat our Stockholm Syndrome connection to Aging and Death — PART 1

Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon described in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims…” — good ol’ Wikipedia

I, having started to be more and more fascinated by health tech, biotech, preventive medicine, and longevity, now have come across some very interesting reactions when discussing health, aging, and death with my friends and some strangers. It is clear that many people DO NOT want others to concentrate on ending aging or death. Before I had started spending more time on this topic, I would have definitely assumed that everyone wanted themselves and their loved ones to live forever (as long as there were no monotonous Highlander-esque fights to the death to endure), and therefore would be extremely excited the more and more people were dedicating their lives and resources to trying to end aging and death. This is not the case.

A bit taken aback by not finding uniform support for such anti-aging efforts, I started to spend slightly less time researching the science and more time thinking about why many people didn’t support this and how we could change their minds. The hope being that the more popular support we have for such efforts, the quicker we will achieve higher and higher levels of success in this mission and save lives (extend lives significantly).

This is where I came to agree with the thought that people’s embrace of death is very akin to the seemingly irrational behavior we see in hostages with Stockholm Syndrome (a large thank you to my friend Kevin Perrott for bringing up and discussing this idea with me!). So let’s cut to the chase and break down a few common elements of Stockholm Syndrome and traits that must be present to allow the syndrome to occur and one by one apply them to people’s connection with death:

The features of Stockholm Syndrome include some of the following:

  • Positive feelings by the prisoner toward the captor.

We celebrate death in many cultures and welcome it thankfully for putting our relatives out of their misery and finally letting them “rest in peace”.

  • Negative feelings by the prisoner toward his or her family, friends or authorities attempting any rescue.

My conversations have shown that people list many negative feelings about people fighting aging — everything from “old white men not wanting to die” to “none of it is proven” to “why not fight the more important problems in the world” (I would just note on this one that every single person on earth dying would seem to be an important problem) to “why do you want to contribute to overpopulation and lack of resources on our planet??”.

  • Support for the captor’s reasons and behaviors.

Going along with the reasons that I’ve heard above, you add in that it is good for evolution of humanity, keeping us from getting bored, etc etc.

  • Positive feelings on the end of the captor toward the victim.

Yes, I am sure Death loves you ;)

  • Support from the victim to help the captor.

Many people when faced with aging and death, will avoid getting available treatment (although limited as currently is), learning more about their particular condition, or taking any recommended steps to hurt death’s chances of taking them “early”.

  • Inability by the victim to execute behaviors that can lead to release or detachment from the captor.

This is the most concerning one for me, and I fear will become even worse before better. We have talented scientists. We have tons of resources and straight cash to fight this and yet we can’t get organized. We can’t even bring ourselves to declare the war against death.

In order for Stockholm Syndrome to occur, there must be at least three of the following traits:

  • There must be a sorely uneven balance of power in which the captor must dictate what the captive can and cannot do.

Yep, death definitely has us there. We currently have an unblemished record of losing to death. Death pretty much seems all powerful to most of us. It looks so powerful that we don’t even want to acknowledge that we can fight it.

  • There must be the threat of death or physical injury to the captive from the captor.

Yes, to us and everyone single person we know or have ever known.

  • There must be a self-preservation instinct within the prisoner.

For sure, we know we and every person we know are going to die, BUT we also need to get out of bed in the morning and function at work and with our family. In all honesty, those that accept death as inevitable are probably happier today than those that believe it can be changed. However, that happiness is a self fulfilling prophecy that will bring about their death (thanks Ela Madej!)

  • The prisoner believes (perhaps falsely) that he or she cannot escape.

Ah, my most favorite and perfectly worded line I have read in quite some time. Oh yes! Every single one of those people I speak to definitely believes she or he cannot escape. But “perhaps falsely”. PERHAPS FALSELY! I, for one, am ready to rally behind that phrase.

As you can see from the side by side comparison, the elements and traits that need to exist for Stockholm Syndrome are all very much present with our unhealthy (literally) affection and connection with death. So how do we wake ourselves up? How do we walk away from our captor and say “You are bad and here to hurt us! We will not support you any longer! We will fight you with everything that we have!”? It is important that we figure this out, as it will take a large part of humanity to come back to our senses and allow the people of the 21st century to be the last poor bastards that died at less than 100 years old.

I would love to hear your ideas to achieve this in the comments and I will be back soon with PART 2 of this essay to outline a few of my own ideas to end our Stockholm Syndrome connection to death.

PART 2 coming soon…