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The vampires in my setting have the ability to control human minds when looking them right in the eyes. While lots of them generally only use this ability to make humans forget masquerade-breaking things they saw or non-violently resolve physical encounters with humans, there are very few limits to what a talented vampire can do to a human's mind with this ability, and the more a vampire messes with a human's mind, the less physically capable that human is of feeling negative emotions like fear, anger, sadness and stress, and the more that human's baseline emotional state becomes a dreamy (bordering on high) glow of contentment. This state is, as it turns out, incredibly addictive, and humans who are snapped out of it after spending too long in this state will find themselves dealing with depression and drastically reduced emotional stability that some never recover from.

One character my heroine encounters has been, and still is, in a heavily-brainwashed state for more than a decade, something that isn't unheard of for vampires to do to humans. When thinking of how to describe this character, it occurred to me that this kind of perpetual emotional state would undoubtedly have drastic effects, positive and/or negative, on this character's health. I know there are various negative impacts stress has on the human body that this character obviously wouldn't be dealing with, but for all I know that might not even be the half of it. For all I know that emotional state, long term, would have horrific consequences on the health of a human being, and this character would look positively ghastly.

If someone were to be heavily brainwashed to not feel any negative emotions, and kept that way for a decade or more, what effects, positive and/or negative, would that decade have on their health?

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    $\begingroup$ Do the vampires care if their thralls eat, sleep, clean themselves, etc? $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielB Let's assume they do, for sake of argument. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron That's when the brainwashing is undone, which hasn't happened with this individual. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ This is described in detail in Simmons' "Carrion Comfort" where vampires tend to have a couple of permanent servants. After a decade of "service" those poor beings lacked sapience and were unable of independent action.Btw chances of a comatose patient to recover drop significantly after six month in coma. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Are they 'Free' during the brainwashing? (as in, do the victims make any choices for themselves underneath the brainwashing). $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 10:15

4 Answers 4

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Opiate Withdrawal

the more a vampire messes with a human's mind, the less physically capable that human is of feeling negative emotions. . . . and the more that human's baseline emotional state becomes a dreamy (bordering on high) glow of contentment. This state is, as it turns out, incredibly addictive, and humans who are snapped out of it after spending too long in this state will find themselves dealing with depression and drastically reduced emotional stability that some never recover from.

The closest real thing to the above is the state of euphoria induced by your favorite opiate. If we assume the mind control uses a similar physiological mechanism then the withdrawal mechanism will be similar.

I won't go into opiate addiction withdrawal here. I am sure there are a lot of first-hand accounts available. I hear it's bad.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm the question seems to ask what would a human be right before the vampire would stop influencing them. Withdrawal explains what would be after. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 13:16
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She rocks hard.

enter image description here

She is in fabulous physical condition because the vampire had her work out a lot. She has 2 grammies from a while back and more recent popular songs as well; the vampire had a good ear and she was blessed with gifts that the vampire made her hone to perfecton. She has several businesses because thanks to the mind control she was a canny and unemotional operator, willing to take risks and cut losses. She is very wealthy.

Now the vampire is gone. He had his own issues that caught up to him. No-one is surprised if your character now wants to coast a little, write some poetry, produce some songs by young artists. Her people notice the workouts have slacked off. They offer her yoga and tai chi which is easier on the knees.

It feels weird to no longer be the person that everyone around her thinks she is. But it feels ok.

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Depending on how deep you want to sink into this, I recommend Antonio Damasio's "Descarte's Error." It's all about how emotion, especially negative emotion, has more to do with decision making than we give it credit. People tend to think of emotion and rationality as a polar spectrum, but the book discusses the case of a man with brain damage who couldn't feel negative emotion.

Despite being a competent businessman prior to the injury, his work and finances began falling apart because of bad decisions he was making. He could analyze things on a rational level just fine, but when let loose to make decisions he'd have enormous trouble.

A neuroscientist highlighted the problem using the following game: You have two decks of cards, Deck A and Deck B. You can choose to draw from one or the other, and you will then gain or lose some amount of money.

Unknown to you, the decks are set up in the following way (I'm paraphrasing, I haven't read it in a while): Deck A has a few high, positive cards, but generally lower negative cards, and works out to a net negative. Deck B has a few high negative cards, but is net positive.

Ordinary people try out both decks, and within 10-15 cards begin to draw entirely from deck B (again, don't quote me on numbers, just the concept). The man with brain damage who couldn't feel negative emotions (it may have been all emotion) kept drawing from A however.

Why? They think it's like this: Because discovering the pattern requires more data than most people can keep in working memory, people start lending the decks a "feeling" or "impression" that tracks the total overall good and bad emotion associated with each deck. It's an imperfect mechanism, of course, but slowly lots of small positive stimuli and the net positive of deck B start to make deck B feel good, while despite a few big winners, Deck A starts to generally look bad.

Without emotion, in other words, the man was only able to consider the small number of examples he kept in working memory, and couldn't develop a "feel" for each deck that would manifest in what we'd call a hunch or gut feeling.

Now, there's tons of reasons this would actually get more complicated, for one thing because the emotional measurement device is imperfect it can be gamed to fool people (read: gambling), but generally speaking I think it's fair to say your character would exist very much in the moment, and have trouble telling the difference between good and bad ideas/people/choices when those judgments would normally come from built up emotional prejudices. They'd have intelligence, but very little wisdom, and despite being able to remember the past, without it emotionally influencing the future they'd probably live almost entirely in the moment, disconnected from anchors or impressions that link them to long-term goals.

At least, that's one theory. Shrug It might make a good RP challenge, playing a character that's trying to rediscover their ability to feel, and to understand why it's necessary that people feel negative things sometimes despite it being unpleasant (and after being blissed out for ten years, I'm guessing anything negative would feel like it HURT!).

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Compare such a person with a psycho who's on neuroleptics. Essentially a person that you describe has lived for ten years in constant euphoria, ignoring any and every negative happening to its body or mind. In case your vampire would not care for its target's health, that person could well be DEAD after ten years of random issues like festering wounds, broken teeth, sepsis, heart attack from extreme obesity that would develop because of no need to do fitness, etc etc etc. (Some of this might happen without the vampire noticing, especially with teeth)

In case the target receives enough health care like a modern day's dog handler gives to their pet, the person would still likely fall into neglect of its mind, resulting in retardation. Why should such a person bother with anything, if they don't really feel negative? They are already in a condition where everything is ideal, for their mind! Such a mind would degrade due to lack of practice, this lasting ten years could turn a human into a real vegetable. Lack of exercise would result in obesity, and forcing that target into doing exercise would be quite hard, if the human plain doesn't want to do anything. This also would result in gradual weakness of limbs, eventually leading to the human becoming immobile and unable to stand up. Then they would sh*t self, requiring extra care like a paralyzed person requires, then they would probably shut down into vegetable state. And, I expect all this to happen quite a lot faster than ten years. So my answer is, the human would be either incapacitated and with no intelligence left, or dead.

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