1. Dismas

    Dismas New Member

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    Psychological Consequences of Isolation?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dismas, Nov 21, 2016.

    So, I've been building this character for the past year or so: an awkward, lonely kid who joined the army at 16 to defend the galaxy from alien invasion. He ends up garrisoning a frontier planet, aliens attack, and long story short he spends the next four to five years completely alone scavenging to survive.

    My question is, what kind of effect would this have on his psychology, his personality. Right now I imagine him as being sort of, detached from the world around him, does that sound about right?
     
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  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    I think it depends very much on your MC. If he has grown up more or less shunned and teased it could have made him bitter and welcoming isolation, but it also could be a massive source of strength. A Fuck-you-world attitude could have grown, making him a person who keeps his own council and truly thinks, not caring what the rest of the world feels about his attitude, doing what he feels needs done. Speaking of personal experience here (and no, I don't think kindly of my one-time-tormentors :D).
     
  3. Peper Shaker

    Peper Shaker Member

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    From a google search I found:

    He could have hallucinations: hearing footsteps and voices or seeing flashing lights and nothing being there.
    Physically he would have higher blood pressure, more likely to develop dementia, he would have erratic sleeping patterns, attention deficits and verbal deficits.

    Isolation would mess with his sense of time, time would seem to pass slower.
     
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  4. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    As is reported from google. You have circumstance to consider as well in terms of how he behaves while by himself, and how he'd behave suddenly being among people - then being with a single person, perhaps. The drift from normalcy would become most apparent at "home" with a loved one, I imagine. Behavior is often, when observed, what one might expect as opposed to what one actually does. You know how you behave when you're alone, but nobody else does. We only know how we behave when alone. SO....if someone is in a room alone, though being viewed through a two-way mirror and a bunch of doctors on the other side, is he (or she) really alone? Where would we get this information? All we can know is how they are after they're alone!

    This might be a good reason to have a teddy bear with you at all times.
     
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  5. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    16-21 are extremely important formative years, this is where you get into the finer points of society, and becoming a member.

    At the very lowest level of this guys problems, and there are going to be a lot of them, he's not going to know how to be a member of society. What's more, since he developed alone, chances are very strong that he's going to want to continue to be alone. Any change of this is going to take a massive effort on either his, or another persons part.

    One of the main reasons we group up as humans, is because we depend on each other. If your character doesn't depend on others, then he has no reason to contribute.
     
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  6. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    Yep scientifically you are right, but I am a hopeful bastard and say that there is deeply human instinct inside each of us which is not as uncaring or detached as you imply. Humans want other humans and so make new humans ;)

    Yep, but mostly people can change their behavious (disclaimer: I am talking about usual behavious, not about conditions which changed body/brain chemistry) - it just requires effort :)
     
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  7. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I very much doubt it's possible to construct a blueprint for this situation that would apply equally to everybody. Some of us are fonder of our own company than others. Some of us crave constant interaction while other shrink from it. Some folks have people they would truly miss in this kind of a situation. Some don't. Some are self-reliant by nature, while some are not. Some have survival skills and know the terrain. Some haven't a clue.

    I do think that, no matter how it starts out, it's very likely the person you mention would struggle to re-integrate with people after such a long time alone. Unlike a prisoner kept in solitary confinement in a limited space by hostile people, your character might well experience periods where he's quite happy on his own, and can enjoy certain aspects of his situation. He will certainly become very unused to conversation, and may be bewildered by changes that have happened in his absence. Even on the simple level (as a friend of mine recently learned) he may discover that his 'voice' doesn't work as well as it used to, if it's left unused for even a week or so.

    However, does he re-integrate eventually, or does he decide to go it alone when he's given the choice? That's down to character.

    What are his biggest fears about being alone? Being alone means there is NOBODY to help you if you get sick or injured, or encounter some necessary task that requires teamwork. I know that would bother me. I love being 'on my own,' but with a telephone handy in case something goes wrong. I don't like people constantly yapping at me—in fact that drives me cuckoo. But I don't know that I'd want to be stuck somewhere I couldn't summon some kind of help if I needed it.

    What are his fears about re-entering society? Does he actually want to be found and rescued? Does this attitude change as the story progresses?

    This is the challenge for you. Build a character that you believe in, and involve yourself in his feelings and behaviour. Whatever you come up with is probably fine, as long as you've thought (and felt) it through.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2016
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  9. nhope

    nhope Member Reviewer

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    I think it would depend on how he became alone in the first place. Did he defeat the aliens and his own army by his own hand? Did he wander away and let them do themselves in? Become captured then escaped? Get left behind? An "awkward, lonely kid" who joined the army at 16 to defend aliens must have had something larger than himself inside to feel that he could be a part of such a grand mission. Did he only appear to be awkward and lonely to throw people off as he planned to thwart this mission by mapping his attack by his bedside light?

    How he became alone would have a great impact on how he handled himself over the next four years. But why four years? A lot would have happened in four years and it probably wouldn't take that much time for the lack of another body to mess with your mind.

    Try to isolate yourself from the world, phone, tv, news, animals, and people for a weekend. See what happens.
     
  10. texshelters

    texshelters Active Member

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    I have one character who is isolated though with a supposedly loving family. She slowly goes mad like her mother due to many things, one being she thinks she's better than everyone, and much more. She becomes isolated and trapped and goes mad.

    My other main character doesn't like to be isolated, she hates it, she misses her dad and grandma. However, she has gained some strength from knowing what her grandma went through, whom she is named after.

    So, isolation affects characters in different ways, but generally, we are social animals, not lone wolves, despite the literature that promotes humans as lone wolves.

    Peace,
    Tex Shelters
     
  11. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    As others pointed out, isolation has different effects on different people.
    I think one of the main things to consider is what will he go through when confronted with having to live with others again.

    Think about it this way-
    You are a teen. You are stranded on another planet. You happen to survive for 5 years. When the others show up, what does any one of them offer you that you have not provided for yourself?
    That is the hardest thing about isolation. There is a reason why people who live alone into their 40s and 50 rarely get married or end up living with someone. They are set in their ways, they have provided for themselves, and they won't change for someone new.
    I can say from experience that isolation breeds isolation. Personally, I have to force myself to go out into society on a daily basis and force myself to interact with others just so I remain part of society. I slip away quickly and then have to start all over again.
     
  12. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    You should join the Space Marines; you look and sound like the kind of person who would handle himself well, all alone, beset on every side by the forces of Hell :)
     
  13. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    <~~~ I am retired from the Space Marines. When Doom went to 16 bits I was forced into retirement.
     
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  14. Scot

    Scot Senior Member

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    There is a breed of people for whom isolation from the world at large is pretty much the norm: single-handed long distance sailors.
    Common psychological effects include:-
    • Lucid dreams.
    • Hearing voices.
    • Hallucinations.
    • Emotional inertia, or fear paralysis.
    • Boredom.
    • Disrupted sleeping patterns.
    On the other hand, when Robin Knox-Johnson completed his solo circumnavigation in his home-built yacht, Suhaili, he was subjected to a battery of psychological tests and proclaimed 'disturbingly normal'.

    You might like to read the best seller The Martian by Andy Weir, where the MC goes through a similar scenario to yours.
     
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  15. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    Wasn't there an episode of Star Trek about this?

    Anyways, I'm no psychiatrist, but aside from what was explicitly stated above, I think trouble trusting any kind of authority figure would be a big deal. There's two big reasons for this: One, who needs authority figures when you can survive on your own?
    Two, (And I think this this is the bigger one,) Clearly (At least from their perspective,) that authority figure sucks at their job. Your character was abandoned for five years, with nobody to help them or come to their rescue. So, not only can they take care of themselves fine, but they have zero reason to trust anyone who claims to be 'looking out for them', because the people who claimed that already failed miserably to do so.
     
  16. Sniam

    Sniam Member

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    It reminds me of a scenario in a videogame. A researcher was with her crew on a planet but they couldn't go back, even though the environment was hostile as hell. Long story short, only she survives. She fighted madness by recording herself speaking of her research and losing herself into work; but as you find her recordings you can see how she dips into madness bit by bit, talking for instance about how the fridge and the toaster were plotting against her so that she dismantled the toaster in front of the fridge to make an example.
    In your case, I would say either your MC speaks to himself all the time so that he still knows how to speak when rescue comes, either he'll be incapable of correctly speaking. In both cases though, he will first try to attack people coming to help, that's for sure.
    Also, depending on how well he adapted to his new environment, he might actually want to stay. After rescue, he could have a hard time trying to separate himself from his gear, feeling naked as people are trying to help. Even if his rational mind will be telling him it's alright and normal, his guts would tell him to keep on fighting. Basically, PTSD with a highlight on paranoia.
     

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