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During the dark ages, a woman ran afoul of a witch, who put a curse upon her and her daughter with a spell. The evil witch cursed the poor woman with eternal motherhood. It gave her complete immortality, meaning she couldn't die from age or be killed by other means, and she would always heal whatever injuries that might be sustained. Her child would not gain long life, and would maintain their natural life cycle. However, They would be reincarnated through the same mother for the cycle to repeat itself, and eventually would regain all of the memories from her previous lives. The immortal would give birth to her daughter over again, watching them grow old and die, only for the process to repeat itself. This cycle would continue until the curse was broken.

What would be the effects on the brain or consciousness of an individual with an unlimited amount of lives? Would they have trouble fitting into society after being repeatedly dying and being reborn throughout the centuries?

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  • $\begingroup$ So basically a life long version of groundhog day? I'm sure it will take a while, but that movie did show pretty well how someone can decline emotionally in such a situation. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Jul 3 '20 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ That would be a curse, all right. This is why I try to avoid running over strange old ladies' dogs. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 3 '20 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ What does " They would be reincarnated through the same mother for the cycle to repeat itself," mean? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jul 3 '20 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ The closest parallel I can think of is the Dr Who character Ashildr en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 3 '20 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ Ashildir is a great example. She becomes immortal among the Vikings and is bored without end by the Victorian Age. She still waits for Dr. Who at the end of the Universe. However immortality seems to have little effect on her, that would have been more interesting. $\endgroup$
    – Anderas
    Jul 4 '20 at 15:20
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Hawk Girl and Vandal Savage sorta have this already. Except one is a superhero and one is a supervillain.

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Hawk Girls dies and is reborn as the same person with all her memories from her past lives. Memories and powers tend to come flooding back in high-school, she does something heroic that makes the papers, and Vandal Savage starts tracking her down again.

Vandal Savage occasionally complains that his wives and children die and he doesn't, but he's an uber-rich super-villain. The few times he's monologued about it made the character even less likable.

Hawk Girl complains much more often about unfair it is that she is hunted by an uber-rich super-villain. Even she seems to think living forever with her past memories would be nice if she could just take a reincarnation off sometimes.

Immortality is usually seen as a blessing, not a curse

There are cautionary tales, such as Tuck Everlasting, but immortality is generally greatly desired and quested after. Mythology like the Fountain of Youth is built on everyone's desire to live forever.

The mom lives forever straight up. All she has to do is pop out a baby every 75 years. This seems like a small price to pay.

She knows her kid will get all her memories back soon, let's say around age 10. Mom knows she just puts up with a crying, snotty kid for 10 years and she'll get an adult trapped in a child's body.

Armed with the experiences of an adult, teenage years would be far less traumatic. Kid will have already acquired the soft-skills you need in a past life. Since mom knows your basically an adult, she probably won't be too strict with bedtime or discipline.

Passing on wealth would be simple too. One of you genuinely gets reborn. Mom pops out the kid. Mom raises the kid and puts her in charge of the family business. Mom goes off to have fun and leaves the kid to run things for 20 years.

Kid makes new best friend Mom! I mean Lisa. Lisa inherits the business in kid's will. Pops out the kid again. Repeat!

Psychologically, the worst part would likely be children + grandchildren not being in the (rebirth) loop. Sadly, many families lose young children. Mom and Kid would at least get to see their children live long full lives, and be there for great-great-grandchildren.

I think you'll have to add something like Hawk Girl/Vandal Savage to make it a punishment. As it stands now people will be lining up outside the witch's door!

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the "horrors" of immortality are highly overrated. The main character isn't even cursed to be alone - her daughter eventually comes back. It does suck a bit as mom & daughter watch the grandkids die, but the daughter gets a "break" from this by periodically getting old and dying. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 3 '20 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus Only because you haven't thought it through. When humanity is dead, the Earth a cinder and the sun a cold, black relic, there the immortal will be, screaming into the void, forever. $\endgroup$
    – DrMcCleod
    Jul 5 '20 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ DrMcCleod I'm guessing anyone that lives for a billionish years is going to have such an alien perspective on things that we can't anticipate how they will respond. Also, if immortality can be obtained by a mere witch's curse, there may be a pool of immortals to associate with of various kinds. Maybe she'll have cryostasis and be frozen (alive but not) on her way to visit the aliens. Who knows? Great stuff for stories, but people are endlessly resilient. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 5 '20 at 14:41
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all forms of immortality makes immortal people suicidal. someone who dies, but reappears again in the same form will reach a point where they no longer want to live, and will move heaven and Earth to find a way to die for good.

this person will never be happy, and will make it their never ending quest to find a way to finally no longer exist.

being immortal is the absolute worst curse that exists.

and somebody who is immortal will try to end immortality, reincarnation, whatever, forever as they would never want any other to go through the same hell as they do themselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd say It depends honestly, sure you will go through a phase of trying to die no matter what, but eventually you get no option but to accept. What is true is that such a person wouldn't raise an eyebrow over wasting energy in favor of self conservation. They most likely won't deny an opportunity to die for good, but at some point going on desperately searching for a means to stay dead become pointless (groundhog day also depicts this well, in which the character becomes suicidal but seems to come to terms with his relative immortality). $\endgroup$ Jul 3 '20 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ "I have died so many times. Been dragged back into life. Like being hauled over broken glass." ~Jack Harkness, Torchwood $\endgroup$ Jul 3 '20 at 20:47
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Forgetting Will Be A Powerful Shield of Personality

Forgetting seems to be a part of how memory is built, rather than a defect caused by age. Theories like the forgetting curve suggests details are lost over time, but big ideas tend to persist (information is not totally lost) and interference theory suggest that multiple new experiences are cross-referenced into a more complete whole. We lose things, and might get tripped up attempting to recall specifics. (ex: remembering how great it was when hygiene was developed, but was it before or after asphalt?).

This, however, is a great shield for your character from any atrocities she survives through history. With time, the agony of certain experiences will fade.

Unless the magic also preserves memory. I think your character will be someone always living in the present. Possibly, from time-to-time, brought down by tragedy; but eventually bouncing back.

She Might Have a Journal

To keep the details, she might have started recording things in clip books and her own diaries. This will get pretty voluminous quickly. And it's subject to destruction by the usual : fire, flooding. Worse, a visitor browsing the tomes would be in on the secret. She could build a private library to hold the collection, moving the library from time-to-time when the local government seems to be approaching chaos.

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The show Dark has time travelers who are essentially immortal because of their time hopping as they keep other versions of themselves going there is some memory swapping as well though it is very minor. the extreme elder selves must always bare the repeated deaths of the ones they love the retraumatization of their younger selves sometimes giving their younger selves the trauma in question or killing off the one person they love most to save the version of the one they love most. the characters are constantly cycling through trauma, regret, loss, madness, and failure to find a solution.

I think your pair would wax and wane on how close or dissolved their relationship would be until they realize they'll never be free from one another or the consequence of the parent until they fix the problem if there is a fix at all.

there is no way either of them will not accumulate multiple stacks of mental illnesses that will come and go as the pressures in their lives add or subtract so depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD & ComplexPTSD, can all spawn from lack of control of ones environment or self or traumas in their lives and this pair already will suffer both these in just 1 life cycle.

suicide would come and go some from madness of the lack of progress, or the daughters needless 300th death, the mourning period would move into a sting of the heart and become a burden on the mind and soul. Those who come to the funeral of the daughter would remark how cold the mother might be. The mother may stop burring the child altogether as it becomes a my daughter/son is dead long live my child who is within me. The mother might go through phases where she stops thinking of the child as her girl/boy but as versions she raises. Burying one version then another until she can accept it's the same soul.

the daughter might kill herself too over the strain of lives relived. She knows major events in each life but might fail to separate the past and most recent self. the mother might kill the child to reset a bad version and the daughter will recall it in time. there might be times the mother kills herself leaving the child behind only to come back the child would recall those times as well.

there wouldn't be a true 100% acceptance of the curse nor its continued ramifications both mother and child would have to become a team even if it's not out of love for one another. the mother will always have in her mind the child died yet again needlessly because of her actions that day. the child might blame every death of herself and her love ones on the mother because she has to go through it once again.

the child would not fit into society once their old memories return for the following reasons:

  1. They have centuries of info in their mind only needing to update what is now incorrect. the child will master over their lives only the things that they feel can benefit them in lifting the curse.

  2. Other children will sense this person is not like them. the Child's mind switches from young to old once the memories come back there has to be a personality change at this time and they aren't going to want to talk to young kids who aren't of abnormal intelligence.

  3. The Child will stop going to school in some lives and will instead take jobs or work for themselves/their mother instead if they don't have the money to do something they feel they need to achieve to lift the curse.

  4. They'll want to move back into a self autonomy state they were accustom to so if that was living without the parent or living in their own home they will want to rekindle that despite the age at which their mind of the old self returns. They aren't going to pretend to be a child if mentally and spiritually they are not.

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