This is not surprising, considering that the self-improvement industry was one of the first wide adopters of brainstim technology.
The paradox inherent in “self-improvement” is that its clients are in effect saying, “I’d like to be not me,” … or, to put it another way, “I’d like to change, but I still want to be myself.”
(This is why some brainstim self-help interventions begin with an experience of amnesia. Of course, this is only an experience of amnesia, not true amnesia (after the brainstim, all the client’s memories are still intact). But the theory is that an opening sequence simulating amnesia helps the client to better assimilate the ensuing self-help intervention.)
In the case where I was called on for advice, the plaintiff was a client who’d undergone a “stop-smoking” brainstim intervention. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s intervention, by associating the urge to smoke with a pattern-interrupt (“take a deep breath and count to ten”)— resulted in a substantial decline of “the pleasure of living.”
Though the intervention itself was successful, and the plaintiff successfully stopped smoking, the plantiff found himself compulsively practicing the pattern-interrupt—during meals, while out clubbing, drinking with friends, during films at the cinema. He was thus not able to “fully appreciate” the pleasures of said: meals, outings, drinking, cinema.
The defendant company argued that these were precisely the situations where he was previously liable to reach for a cigarette. And furthermore that the client was free to interpret his brainstim experience as he wished—that the one-hour brainstim intervention was epistemologically identical to a dream, which one can ignore and forget.
So the questions facing me were: to what extent should the brainstim company be responsible for its client’s post-brainstim cognitive dissonance and anhedonia? And to what extent is a brainstim experience epistemologically identical to a dream?