DSM V: The Final Frontier

By the year 2050, it was beginning to dawn on humanity that it had a deeper working knowledge of outer space than its own inner nature. The uncertainty attending the shift in perspective produced strange effects within a generation. A crippling stasis gripped cultures world-wide. Medication therapies no longer allayed symptoms which had steadily ballooned over a century.

Irrational obsessions and compulsive urges of the weirdest subjective varieties were pandemic, threatening the very fabric of human relations. The sovereign sanctuaries of home and neighborhood transformed into violent hot-boxes of emotional projection seemingly overnight. Ongoing armed conflicts dotted the world map.

Disaffected loners and accumulations of like-minded tribal personalities choked law enforcement, fueling its own guarded paranoia. Entire governments were insolubly locked in petty dispute. Divorce statistics soared with birth rates, even as traditional marriages plummeted and same-sex partnerships splurged. The heavy burdens of civilization called psychiatry to task. 

The year: 2070. We join Capt. Abnorm Drowze aboard the Starship Innerguise, deep in inner-galactic space. The crew's mission: to locate the most elusive and mysterious form of matter ever conceived. Psychiatry wouldn't survive without it; indeed, life as mankind had hitherto known it now appeared so irrational that half its world was estimated as unassimilable by reason.

Science called it "the God factor," and it would furnish the first truly objective reference point for human nature. The neurosciences knew it involved chemical interactions in the brain; they could see them light up on the scans. But, psychiatry needed something more tangible than an electronic game-show to confirm it. It would go in search of the mysterious substance and justify body-psychology once and for all... 

The elusive "God-tissue in the fabric of matter" was a promising theory in the early 21st century -- psychiatry flourished. Later studies, however, attributed its short-lived success to scientific credulity and the stiff resistance to self-examination. Its apparent objectivity, they avowed, only contributed to a global epidemic of pathological symptoms such as humanity had never seen -- except in the general relations which constituted its entire history. The old gene-structure no longer immunized against these new mutations of discontent. Could psychiatry redeem itself?

This fifth incursion into the subjective mind by the APA-backed interest-group, Diagnostics and Social Mediocrity, was heralded by an incredible virtual reality trip through the brain in which the team of explorers "lived" its inner workings first-hand with the aid of computer game programs. Microscopic technology was now able to shrink thought to minute proportions; to experience brain-biology in its most elemental form. 

"Shrinks Shrink Thought!" the Washington Compost headlined. The virtual program was given the moniker, Starship Innerguise, and Dr. Drowze was the first choice to helm the ambitious project. "Once we identify it, we'll know a lot more." he assured at the press conference amid great fan-fare.

The "Dream Team" sailed comfortably through the cortex and frontal lobe but experienced turbulence in the parietal lobe. The ship was tossed rhythmically, frightening the crew. Once into the cerebellum, they came under direct attack by "androgynes". Capt. Drowze ordered deployment of the ship's deflective shield. "The eerie figures changed shape at will and flew at us without let." he relayed once they'd re-established communications with the cortex. "It was crazy!"

The deflective shield bounced the team back into the frontal lobe just in time to dodge the disintegrating effects of the intense emotional images. Hostile neurons fired into the craft like missiles. The control room had meantime piled up with print-out data-sheets, and the crew had difficulty maneuvering around the great heaps of information. "Rational assessment became a liability." Capt. Drowze later adjudged. The world waited expectorantly as the team dared the limits of human experience.

Tech-Dr. Norm L. Persons was manning the deflective shield when the team lost its way. "I couldn't describe it. The data-sheets showed equilibrium, but the ship was in complete chaos." Some suffered schizophrenic reactions before the shield was activated. Even a few minutes under such pressurized conditions can shatter the ego, leaving it porous and vulnerable to psychotic influences.

The official investigation concluded that the team was not sufficiently prepared emotionally, and the dangerous images quickly subverted their aims when they strayed into the cerebellum. "It was like it was just waiting for us." said one crew-member. "Even Capt. Drowze's emergency self-medication kits wouldn't make it go away."

When the team was deluged by the unsavory wraiths, it took the decisive reality function of Capt. Drowze to bring it back to focus. "Dammit, man! Activate the shield! We're looking for a real thing!" He later described the tense moment: "Look, all I knew was, we were looking for a real, concrete object and those androgynes were determined to stop us. We needed to get out of there -- and fast! The direct experience of psychotic processes does things to one. If not treated immediately with a stringent regimen of medication therapy buttressed by concrete concepts, it can have mind-bending consequences."

The rest of the team remains quarantined in the laboratory, undergoing the de-sensitization process which has become a practical reality-gauge for science in recent decades. Capt. Drowze remains unshaken by the daunting experience, though he did admit that "it had a somewhat harrowing effect vis-a-vis current psychiatric theory."

Once out of quarantine, the team is expected to resume normal activities, though members will be closely monitored and tested every six months to "make sure whatever that thing was in there doesn't metastasize." Radiation therapy has been proposed should behavioral complications arise.

While a thorough projection of the data is years away, preliminary signals are that much has already been learned. A digital photon enhancer translated electro-chemical reactions in the cerebellum into photographs which were then collated to simulate the images experienced by the crew during their ordeal in that distant netherworld. The team was so traumatized that no one, not even Dr. Drowze, was able to retrieve memories of the event. Was it a dream? They relied on the pictures to reveal what had gone on in there.

"We saw something in those pictures --" Dr. Drowze pondered, "something we'd never seen before. It appeared real to all of us, though we can't be sure at this point." He seemed doubtful that even Eye Rotation Therapy would abet them under such conditions. "This is not comorbid with anything we've seen in the cerebro-spinal system." He looked deeply pensive. "Someone has suggested that perhaps we saw God."

He admitted laughing at the hubris of it at first but has since reconsidered. "Whatever it was in those pictures definitely appeared to be carbon based. Whether or not it was God, only the data can tell us." He admitted he felt safe back in his office as he fondled the pictures beamed back from the cerebellum. "You know..." he mused, gazing at the worn photos, "the brain is a fascinating thing." He chuckled, "It does strange things to a man."

Step outside the science for a real journey into the unconscious.