a button to stop mental illness
A friend of mine who studies biomedicine or something, the sort of cool sci-fi type human modification field whatever it may be called(?) recently asked me a question related to it, if you could have your genome edited not only to remove any mental illness you might have but to ensure you couldn’t develop any mental illness in the future would you do it?
the answer at first seems obvious but upon further thought I don’t think it is – my reasoning is mental illness though negative is as much a part of you as any trait you hold (before any psychologists reading this get angry allow me to continue) this isn’t to say you should wish to hold them forever or they make you better, often an issue with the treatment of depression is viewing depression as a core part of who you are, when treatment begins to gain results some even retreat from treatment due to fear that not having depression will somehow make them worse or that being depressed is who they are etc, I do not believe this I believe you should seek to remove any mental illness you have and that you will be better off for it, so why would I possibly be unsure about editing genomes to remove mental illness and ensure they cannot develop? it’s also worth specifying I’m talking only for myself on a society level I see no reason why if possible this shouldn’t be made available to anyone who wants it.
For better or worse mental illness becomes who you are, if you've had it for a long time others view it as a core part of your personality – When I've had drugs that work well my friends have remarked on how I seem like a completely different person.
If you have a mental illness it is a part of your identity, something we like to hold onto.
What about stopping yourself from developing mental illness? This also seems to impact your identity since everyone responds to things in unique ways, If you don't respond to stress well and then you clicked a button ensuring you can't have a mental breakdown then get put under a fuck ton of stress and you respond fine are you still you?
Imagine for a second you have a mental illness, In one scenario you take a long arduous route of therapy, medication, self development, struggle and determination to overcome it, you're not cured but you've managed to regain most of your functioning. In scenario two you click a button and you're good as new, cured, never have to worry about it again.
Doesn't scenario one just intuitively feel more authentic than the other? I think the reason for this is struggle and enduring suffering is a fundamental part of being human, we feel more connected to those that've endured as opposed to someone who's never suffered or struggled in any capacity, we feel more connected to people once they share the tales of their suffering, This feeling of connection I believe stems from authenticity the person becomes more real, more authentic, more human.
To contrast it with traits imagine you struggle with anger, you have three paths forward (a) accept it and do nothing (b) to understand why you’re angry and to spend the rest of your life trying continually to keep it under control or © click a button and it goes away. since I don’t accept (a) as a valid choice and see it purely as a lack of choice it will be ignored, (b) feels the most authentic but does this actually make it the case?
The changing of who we are must feel self guided or it's rejected as completely artificial, the button offers an artificial solution to what is (but doesn't feel like) an artificial problem, I can think of no more artificial constraint of the self than mental illness, it distorts your view of reality, your ability to assess life, it forces moods and beliefs upon you without consent or you willing it, The parts of you that are a result of the mental illness are completely inauthentic and artificial in their design so why should the way we expel them require authenticity? why do we seemingly reject artificial resolutions to an artificial problem?
If the way in which we expel the problem that we've already integrated as part of ourself lacks authenticity then an underlying lack of authenticity is built into the foundations of our new self, with the proposed button leading to permanent indisputable changes I think this is why I recoiled at the thought, my new self would never be capable of true authenticity.
The point of this post isn't I'm right your wrong or anything like that, I thought it was interesting how much I struggled with the question and I've found writing things out in some sort of structure way is great for self understanding – in fact throughout this post I should have used me/I instead of you but I know my answer to the question and why that's my answer so perhaps it would have been pointless to phrase it that way.