Okay, I'm /pretty/ sure you're the right blog to ask. Looking at a scifi fic, alien character, assuming a human brain. I have a character being punished in a way reserved for a lower class. I can handwave some things, but I'm interested in the effects of being conscious but immobile for an extreme period of time, solitary with brief, impersonal interaction, blindfolded, with the mental equivalent of a shock collar going off every time he struggles. (1/2)
(2/2) Assuming that his captors are invested in keeping him alive (feeding tube, bare minimum medical care) What sort of state am I looking at on a rescue after two years of this? Would prefer to avoid first-hand sources, if possible, and I’m mostly interested in the psycological effects.
Honestly? I would expect him to have died in the first week from kidney failure.
If that somehow didn’t happen I’d expect him to get bedsores in the first month which would become horribly infected and kill him.
If somehow neither of these things happened then the combination of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation would have caused mental breakdown within the first two weeks. If he was released after two years I think he’d be completely incapable of human interaction and possibly speech.
I think he would be (I do not use these words lightly) incurably and untreatably insane.
Your time frame isn’t just extreme it is completely outside physical possibility for anything remotely mammalian.
After long periods (hours to days) stuck in a cramped position such as you describe muscles begin to break down. The destruction of muscle cells leads to a build up of large proteins in the blood. The kidneys can not handle the build up of undigested protein and fail.
This is how stress positions can kill a person without leaving a mark on their body.
And that’s not something that can be easily hand waved away with advances in medical technology. If he has some kind of functioning kidney replacement this does not get away from the fact that his major muscles are breaking down.
I want to help. I really really do. But this is not survivable. At all.
The longest I am aware of anyone being left in a sensory deprived, solitary environment is 35 days. The subjects in these experiments commonly did not remember long periods of their lives before the treatment, the amount of time lost varied between six months and ten years.
And in these experiments people could move, they could sleep easily, they had meals and bathroom breaks. They were not in constant physical pain.
The experimental conditions were much milder than your scenario and they resulted in permanent brain damage. The researchers involved had no doubt that these sensory deprivation rooms could be lethal.
The longest voluntary confinement in one was six days.
I’m going to quote one of the relevant passages from Rejali’s book; this is on the sensory deprivation research of Maitland Baldwin.
‘Baldwin put an army volunteer in the box and refused to let him out. This persisted for forty hours. Finally “after an hour of crying loudly and sobbing in a heartrending fashion” to use Baldwin’s words the soldier kicked his way out of the box.’
I like to hope he punched Baldwin.
If you want to read about the devastating psychological effects of these devices then the researchers you want to look up are Donald Hebb (who conducted consensual experiments), Maitland Baldwin (who did not) and Ewen Cameron (who tried to give people new personalities and succeeded only in making their mental health much worse and ruining their lives).
The relevant papers are all from the 50s and 60s. They are mostly behind pay walls. Hebb wrote A Textbook of Psychology, Cameron’s accounts can be found in Comprehensive Psychiatry (1960, 26, 27) or Journal of Mental Science (1960, 742-54).
If you want this to be realistic you need to give the victim room to move and you need to cut the time down drastically or pick another torture entirely.
Otherwise they are so far from human you may as well be asking me about the mental and emotional state of an octopus.
All of these components separately, stress positions, solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, they all have much more extreme effects than are generally acknowledged. And torture is cumulative.
Note that I did not even touch the electricity torture which can by itself be lethal.
Please do not hand wave this. You’re talking about tortures that are regularly excused and legalised. Even though they kill people. And that background cultural torture apologia has persuaded you that a completely unsurvivable scenario is only a little bit extreme.
I personally believe that you should not perpetrate further immoral and unrealistic misinformation, especially of this magnitude, in your writing
I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.