Downtown Seattle in the afternoon

Last night I wrote a bit of fantasy as part of the Dispatches from the Future (B-List) project I’ve been working on. The last few days have done their level best to bring me way down, and I admit that I am currently not feeling my best (what a miserably inadequate euphemism that one is). My nose is running off my face, I seem to be experiencing something known as reactive arthritis, and everyone near and dear to me is infected with a similar summer crud.

This is life. It knocks us sideways. Some of us, from time to time, maybe a little more than others. JUICE should be a lot longer; note to self, “write more parts.” I was thinking about what a real cure for depression might look like. What is pharmacologically achievable today is more like living with emotional blinders than cure. I wanted to probe how a cure might work. After a particularly harrowing commute to pick Tess up from deepest, darkest Seattle, an idea occurred to me.

Seattle in the afternoon is the traffic equivalent of a black hole. Cars can get into downtown, but they will never again emerge. Sitting behind the wheel of our Prius for hours gave me plenty of time to pay attention to how everything around me was affecting me. Each and every time someone defected — inched me out of a lane change or honked their horn because of some unavoidable road-wise traffic event — I felt myself getting bumped sideways. Off the steady state between mania and depression. Nudge, bump, knock. Nudge, bump, knock’in me sideways. Already on a down cycle in my regular rapid mood oscillations anxiety, depression and anger increasingly became my reality.

Depression is not the opposite of happiness. In fact, these two states of mind can and do coexist, pretending to be a perfectly contented coupling while mutually these moods seeking something more racy on the side. Happiness and depression are both cheats, and this is why having one will never exclude the other. For me at least, depression is most often the product of little frustrations coupled with an inability to disengage with how I feel about them. Emotions being the atomic structure of my state of mind; indivisible and unavoidable at that level you cannot help but pay your full attention. So if the default mind state of depression is feeling bad, bad, bad what might happen if we engineered an agent to reverse this?

If frustration and fatigue naturally result in despondency and dejection, what might happen if we could transform our physiological response to be one of content, cheer, and even elation? JUICE changes how we react to those negative external stimulus. If your unavoidable reaction to bad traffic after a long day of working is a bad mood, then on JUICE it’s an excellent mood. As you can see, it’s not necessarily a socially acceptable transformation, but I’m looking forward to exploring how this one might work in more detail.


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