Via Salon, Daisy Yuhas on the fascination of impending collapse:
Neuroscientist Shmuel Lissek suspects that some apocalyptic believers find the idea that the end is nigh to be validating. Individuals with a history of traumatic experiences, for example, may be fatalistic. For these people, finding a group of like-minded fatalists is reassuring. There may also be comfort in being able to attribute doom to some larger cosmic order—such as an ancient Mayan prophecy.
There’s an even broader allure to knowing the precise end date. “Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable,” Lissek says. Lissek, in collaboration with National Institute of Mental Health neuroscientist Christian Grillon and colleagues, has found that when an unpleasant or painful experience, such as an electric shock, is predictable, we relax. The anxiety produced by uncertainty is gone.
Steven Schlozman, drawing both from his experiences as a Harvard Medical School child psychiatrist and novelist (his first book recounts a zombie apocalypse) believes it’s the post-apocalyptic landscape that fascinates people most.
“I talk to kids in my practice and they see it as a good thing. They say, ‘life would be so simple—I’d shoot some zombies and wouldn’t have to go to school,’” Schlozman says. In both literature and in speaking with patients, Schlozman has noticed that people frequently romanticize the end times. They imagine surviving, thriving and going back to nature.