Paragons - Next Gen
Power and Belief
The mind plays a significant role in the paranormal; exactly how significant is not yet known, but it’s at least clear that paragons’ psychological states and ability to think and concentrate have a considerable effect on many of their powers, especially mental and sensory abilities and miracles. Even the name of the growing science of parapsychology shows the connection between the paranormal and the psychological.
There’s evidence demonstrating a relationship between a paranormal’s state of mind and the functions of his or her powers. Some describe paranormal abilities as functions of “will,” “belief,” or even “faith,” and that seems to be at least partially the case. Paragons unable to concentrate and mentally focus often suffer impairment of their abilities. Some attempt to use this to their advantage, either creating distractions to inhibit the use of powers (flashbangs, sirens, irritants, etc.) or using things like drugs to affect a captured paranormal’s concentration.
Psychology has a strong connection with paranormal breakouts. Parapsychologists refer to the “peak moment,” an especially strong emotional state that triggers a breakout. In many cases the emotion is fear or pure survival instinct, but in others it is rage, joy, jealousy, or ecstasy. Some paranormals don’t report a peak moment of emotion in their breakouts, but only because they don’t remember the experience at all. In other cases, experts speculate that extraordinary calm and centeredness—a kind of “Zen” state—may constitute a kind of peak moment in and of itself.
The nature of the peak moment, the individual’s state of mind, also seems to influence the manifestation of paranormal potential. Theories suggest that paragons’ powers at somewhat derived from their emotional needs when they breakout. So fear or survival instincts produce defensive or offensive abilities (depending on the flight or fight reaction), rage and anger produce more offensive abilities, and so forth. Most believe this is simply part of a complex psychological equation including conscious and subconscious desires, past experience, personality, beliefs, environment, and other factors.
Although the peak moment appears to be a major component of breaking out, it’s clearly not the only one, since not everybody who experiences the same heightened level of emotion becomes a paranormal. Still, spark parties and similar origin chaser events are usually based around trying to manufacture peak moments as a way of triggering breakouts.
THE DUMBO EFFECT
If paranormal powers are products of the mind, then to a certain degree paranormals are capable of doing what they believe they can do. Parapsychologists have termed this the “Dumbo effect” after the cartoon elephant that could fly because he believed so strongly in it. Of course, “believe” may not even be the correct term, since the initial reaction of many paranormals to their talents is one of disbelief, which doesn’t seem to hinder them, at least initially.
Still, the continued function of paranormal powers seems at least partially fueled by the individual’s self-confidence and determination. Paranormals who experience depression, self-doubt, or prolonged disbelief in their own capabilities tend to experience a self-fulfilling diminishment of their own powers, at least until they do something to reaffirm their confidence. This is very much the same as any normal person experiencing “performance anxiety” and losing proficiency with a particular skill. In the same fashion, the cure seems to be not giving up and persisting until a pattern of success reaffirms the individual’s confidence.
In keeping with the Dumbo effect, some paranormals pick up various “props” to shore up their confidence and make them more effective. Examples include different rituals, ranging from mantras and prayers, to gestures and dance moves. Others adopt items, such as “magic” rings, necklaces, weapons, and personal keepsakes, or articles of clothing from ritual or religious garb to outlandish costumes. While a fixation of a prop can help paragons overcome self-doubt, it can also produce a dependence on that prop, making it a kind of “crutch” for their abilities, just as Dumbo depended on his “magic feather” in order to fly, even though he didn’t really need it.
THE CENTIPEDE EFFECT
Related to the Dumbo effect is the so-called “centipede effect.” It is named for the proverb in which a centipede is asked how it manages to control its many legs. It replies, “I never thought about it!” and promptly trips over its own feet, now all-too self-conscious about them.
Some paranormals experience a similar effect when they contemplate exactly how their abilities work. Most powers appear fully-functional when a paranormal breaks-out, and their use is almost instinctive and subconscious. Paragons don’t generally know how they do the things they do, only that they can do them if they choose. Using a power usually requires no more effort than thinking about it, unless the paragon relies on some sort of prop (as previously described). In fact, the more the paranormal thinks about it, the harder it is for them to use their powers, much like the centipede tripping over its own feet.
The theory is that a state similar to (but not necessarily as intense as) a peak moment is most conducive to activating or using powers. Thus, it’s better for paranormals to “clear the mind” in order to wield their abilities, and techniques of focused concentration are valuable tools, whether they be meditation, arcane rituals, or simple repetitious practice, so the activation of an ability becomes second-nature, like any other trained skill.
SOLIPSISM AND THE PARANORMAL
The theory that paranormals in some way alter reality, consciously or subconsciously, raises some troubling questions, not the least of which is “what is reality?” On a somewhat more narrow scale, the possibility of reality-shaping makes some wonder: If reality can be changed through thought, if it is in some way subjective, then does anything “really” matter?
Practically speaking, this question only comes into play in two areas. The first is among academics, philosophers, and theologians, who debate ontology, epistemology, and the nature of being, and what the existence of paragons and their powers implies for these things. For the most part, the general public has little interest in this discourse; paranormals exist and they can do what they can do and the practical implications are more important than the philosophical ones.
The other, more important area, is among paragons themselves. In some cases, the question of the nature of reality in relation to a paragon’s power to influence reality leads to the development of solipsism and even megalomania and other psychological disorders. Powerful paranormals are already given to feelings of grandeur, so it’s not a big step for them to reach that conclusion that “Reality is whatever I believe it to be.” There’s even some support for this position in that egotistic, solipsistic, and megalomaniacal paragons are often quite powerful.Like other areas of paranormal psychology, the relationship between mental state and powers appears reciprocal: Powerful paragons are more given to certain kinds of psychological problems, those problems, in turn, seem to sometimes unlock greater power within the affected paranormal, and so forth.
POWER AND SANITY
If paranormal powers are connected, wholly or partially, to the mind, what happens when the mind in question is unbalanced? There appears to be a connection between the kinds of impossible things a paragon can do and the individual’s state of mind. The common theory says those paranormals able to think and reason in unusual ways also have unusual powers, and particularly unusual levels of power.
EXPERIENCES OF GRANDEUR
As one psychologist put it, when describing symptoms of megalomania and delusions of grandeur in a paranormal patient, “technically, these are not ‘delusions,’ as the patient really is a godlike being—who’s to say he shouldn’t feel unshakably superior to ‘mere mortals’ like us?” Having godlike power leads some paragons to act like the capricious and often cruel deities of myth or even to believe they are gods, superior beings able to do as they please without moral constraint.
In common pop psychology, a term has developed to refer to a very specific kind of mental illness that appears to afflict some paranormals. Called the “Gyges Syndrome”, the term references a Greek myth about a shepherd named Gyges, who finds a magical ring that allows him to turn invisible. Rather than use this power to help others or defeat the enemies of his country, Gyges uses his power to take what he wants without repercussion, eventually becoming king.
Similarly, the Gyges Syndrome refers to a specific type of “informed megalomania” where a paranormal comes to see themselves as a godlike being beyond the touch of mortal law or moral concerns. It can be an incredibly pervasive and difficult to argue with worldview, given the tremendous power at the disposal of some paranormals.
This line of thinking is responsible for a great deal of paranormal supremacy groups, terrorism, cults, and other so-called “super-villainy”. While some see great power as being beholden to great responsibility, others come to see power as proof of right to do whatever that power allows you to do.
The Gyges Syndrome is not an official medical diagnosis and psychiatrists question whether it’s really any different from other, more mundane personality disorders, but the term nonetheless often comes up in media and popular discourse.
A “walk-in” is someone who believes that the original or inborn personality or mind of their body has “walked out” or departed and a foreign intelligence—often associated with an alien or higher being—has “walked in,” taking up residence in that physical body and assuming its existence. In the case of paranormals, a walk-in often possesses powers, and the moment when it took on its current corporeal body is the same as a paragon’s breakout.
Psychologists commonly believe the walk-in phenomenon represents a cognitive break: The person’s original personality is unable to deal with the strain of a situation and retreats, allowing a new personality capable of handling things to emerge. This process also triggered a breakout and the development of latent paranormal powers. The “walk-in” personality isn’t really an alien, ascended master, reincarnated guru, or whatnot, but a coping mechanism.
Walk-ins, of course, disagree. They claim they are a variety of “higher” beings, come to Earth to assist humanity through a coming transition towards enlightenment (or something similar). Not surprisingly, paranormal walk-ins demonstrate powers consistent with who and what they believe they are, making it even more difficult to disprove their claims. A number of supporters firmly believe walk-ins are spiritual or religious figures.
Related to the walk-in is the “channel,” a kind of paranormal medium, those who allow disembodied intelligences to communicate and act through their body. Channels are essentially like temporary walk-ins: Rather than the new personality permanently displacing the old, the original personality is merely suppressed temporarily while the “spirit” or other entity controls the physical body.
Paranormal channels have claimed to interact with beings from mythological gods to the spirits of the dead or incorporeal aliens from other worlds or dimensions. As with walk-ins, their powers tend to substantiate their claims, although skeptics say it is just a matter of the channel’s expectations influencing the breakout and manifestation of his or her abilities.
Like a walk-in, an avatar claims to be something other than a normal human being: A mythic figure, spirit, deity, alien, or the like. The difference is, where a walk-in has occupied an existing human body, an avatar claims to have created a human form, spontaneously coming into existence.
Some so-called avatars have been proven to be walk-ins with absolutely no memory of their “prior” lives: From their point of view, it was like they simply came into being one day, and they deny any association with another, normal life. Others, however, cannot be demonstrably proven to exist prior to their appearance as paragons:
No records can be found matching their appearance, fingerprints, or even DNA in some cases. Other self-proclaimed avatars differ significantly enough from the human norm that identifying their prior identity (if any) is practically impossible.
MIND AND POWER
From the point of view of many psychologists, the phenomena of walk-ins, channels, and avatars are evidence of various disorders experienced by paragons, particularly multiple personalities or various dissociative behaviors. In short, they say paranormals who believe they are foreign entities, divine beings, or the like, are mentally ill. Any evidence supporting their claims is “manufactured” by their powers, which do, after all, react to the user’s state of mind.
While the mental health field generally agrees with this view, there really isn’t a clear way to prove it. Indeed, there’s more evidence on the other side of the argument, even if this model dismisses such evidence as artificially created by the paranormals themselves. Until a great deal more information is available, particularly of the mental health and physical condition of pre-breakout paranormals, it remains just one theory among many.
Aberrant paranormals find themselves in a far more precarious position than others when it comes to maintaining their mental health. Often afflicted with monstrous physical mutations or out of control powers, for an aberrant the power they have is more of a curse than a blessing, and that can lead to them becoming bitter, depressed, angry, resentful, and even violent.
Others embrace their inhuman form, seeing it as proof positive that they are simply beyond human and should treat others accordingly.
Paragons aren’t the only ones experiencing psychological impacts from their unusual abilities, of course. The mere existence of the paranormal has an effect on the psyches of normal people, one mental health professions are only beginning to imagine, and one that will likely only get worse as time goes on.
The primary issue revolves around feelings of inadequacy: When someone can bench-press a city bus or run around the world in a matter of minutes, benching a few hundred pounds or breaking the world-record for running a mile seem like paltry achievements.
The same is true of brilliant experts in fields of learning, outdone by paranormals with little, or no, formal training; or devout clergy who witness paragons performing literal miracles, from healing the sick and dying to transmuting matter. In a world where people can do such things, does “ordinary” achievement mean anything?
These feelings feed strongly into the origin chasing sub-culture, where people who feel inadequate try to address it by seeking to become paranormal. Others sink into depression, losing the determination to strive or work towards goals that seem meaningless in the face of paragons. Many normal people become avid “paragon-watchers” and fans, living vicariously through their favorite heroes and often imitating them, leading to cult-like behavior and out-right worship of such god-like beings.
Other people feel understandably threatened by paranormals: What chance do normal people have against them? This leads to declarations that paragons are menaces to society or, worse yet, “unnatural” or morally tainted in some fashion. Anti-paranormal movements like the Seven Thunders feed off these sentiments and stoke them further in their adherents. Paranormal “watchdog” organizations follow the exploits of paragons as avidly, if not more, than the fans, scrutinizing everything they say and do for some ulterior or underhanded motive.
A small number of people feel truly inspired by paragons: If people are capable of achieving the impossible, then even the sky isn’t a limit any more, and you really can do anything if you set your mind to it. This inspiration often edges into origin chasing, especially when people come to believe you can even become paranormal if you try hard enough. For most, it’s the kind of inspiration people have always drawn from emulating heroes.
The majority of people in the world continue to go about their normal lives largely unaffected by paragons apart from what they see on the news or in popular culture, but the overall impact of the Wave and existence of paranormals on the human psyche is still too significant to ignore or easily dismiss. Some speculate whether or not “normals” truly have a future in a paranormal world.