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Is it possible to do permanent mental damage?

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This is speculation, so not a really solid answer, but unless somebody has physical damage to their brain that we don’t currently have the medical technology to repair, then since thinking and rationality more particularly are volitional, I think it makes sense that it would still be at least technically possible for somebody with irrational beliefs to become rational eventually. Now, it may become increasingly unlikely that they actually will change and become generally rational, particularly as more and more time goes by and their potential life span is running out, but up until the last moment they could still feasibly come to realize and admit their errors much like there have been other people who at the last minute embraced some irrational ideas.

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I'm not talking about physical damage to the brain associated with injury, drug use, or anything along those lines. I'm talking about damage to one's consciousness as a result of assimilating irrational ideas. Is it possible to do so much danage to one's mind that it becomes impossible to recover?

There are a number of well known effects that seem to be fairly permanent as a result of child abuse/neglect and poor attachment which may or may not necessarily be connected in particular cases. Also, people who spend their lives less mentally active seem to be more likely to develop dementia. It's late, so those are the only circumstances that have popped into my head. I'll list more if the occur to me later.

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I don't know about abuse, but I have heard that in sever cases of neglect of a child, if a kid isn't spoken to/around enough early in their life that they could end up never being able to learn to really speak like a normal person. However, that I was told was because if the nerves and such in their brain weren't used for language in the first several years of life, then those nerves would just die off, hence making it a physical problem now. I was assuming before that because you didn't want physical problems this wasn't the sort of thing you were looking to hear about. If there are more things that cause really permanent damage from poor child treatment without it having physical effects and without it just being a matter of something pretty stubborn to work out in therapy later in life, I'd be interested to hear about it though. I'll come check back in here later to see if there is more posted.

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From a purely theoretical standpoint it stands to reason that if thought and reason emerge from physical phenomena in the brain, certain thought patterns could be related to physical phenomena that cause permanent harm.

Looking only at the content of a mind (and not the "hardware"), it is also conceivable that one could form a framework of incorrect ideas such that the very tool to correct one's errors (reason) is never applied - although it could be if the person wanted to and knew how (i.e. volition is intact). In fact, any old leftist is an example of this (to some extent).

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Someone who never tried to use their mind properly -- had never tried to become rational -- would probably be stuck there unless he was fairly young. The vested interest he would have built up by being evasive and not wanting to confront his mental failures would be quite a mental barrier to him becoming fully rational. With a lot of effort, he might be able to do it, and people have made turn-arounds late in life, but you have to realize that the craven irrational avoid the facts at every step, and they would have to break that habit first. Most people who live in a mental fog are not going to do any effort to come out of the fog, because the fog hides their insecurities and the fear of their own mind catching them in the act.

We don't yet know the full connection between thinking and not thinking with regards to brain function. But it is quite possible that by idling their own mind and being evasive might cause brain damage on some level. They are actively trying to keep those neurons from firing, and after a while, they might atrophy. It's still an unknown question at this point in time, however, but I can't see how if the mind is not used the mind and brain will atrophy, similarly to not using a muscle for a long enough period of time. So, yes, they might be stuck with a small mind for the rest of their lives if they abuse their mind while young enough to do something about it.

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I believe that certain traumatic events can permanently mentally damage somebody, such as torture or witnessing the graphic, unexpected death of someone you love. The tricky bit is that it would depend on the person. The exact same event might permanently damage one person but not another, depending on their other traits.

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  • 1 month later...
I believe that certain traumatic events can permanently mentally damage somebody, such as torture or witnessing the graphic, unexpected death of someone you love. The tricky bit is that it would depend on the person. The exact same event might permanently damage one person but not another, depending on their other traits.

This best reflects my answer to this thread. Let's add, as an example on how fast such damage can occur in reading on the Stockholm syndrome (see Wikipedia). Some victims of this interesting phenomenon (which is tantamount to a very fast braninwashing) never fully recovered from it.

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The clearest example of experiences that leave indelible psychical damage is in sexual aberrations. Pedophiles seem to be incorrigible, though drugs help. Fetishes, etc. remain powerful throughout the individual's life, or, at least, until their sex-drive fails.

A child can be emotionally crippled by abuse of various sorts--emotional, deprivation, etc. And while they may recover enough to live well, it seems that they cannot attain the sense of security, the benevolent sense-of-life that good parenting provides. That means they would have to find their way over the hurdle of the unreasonable tenor or intensity of their emotions, and continuously edit and proactively counter those tendencies, forever.

Nothing that isn't a medical condition keeps someone from using their reason. Everyone who uses language, you must realize, is doing so. Not thoroughly, perhaps, but it is certainly reason.

Everyone uses reason most of the time. There is no more the possibility of forgetting how to reason than the possibility of forgetting how to speak. There are, however, conditions of a life ruined by folly to the extent that resuming consistent reasoning would require heroic efforts. And where in such ruins would a hero reside?

Every evasion, every act of cowardice, etc., requires twice the strength to repudiate, twice the strength that wasn't there in the first place. Rand's great saying about man's self-made soul captures this fearsome truth.

-- Mindy

Edited by Mindy
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