Psychology of the end of the world: Should you worry about doomsday?
While NASA is trying to calm fears of the impending December 21, 2012 doomsday prediction, some media continue spreading the news about the end date on the Mayan Calendar, adding different versions and interpretations of what is popularly conceived as a prophecy of the end of the world.
Response to these apocalypse theories ranges from total dismissal or denial (even jokes relating it with the end of Twinkies!) to people suffering serious psychotic breaks and having suicidal ideations.
In Latvia, for example, insurers were requested to insure against abduction by aliens and the “breaking of the space-time continuum.”
For others, the French village of Bugarach will be the only safe place to be on December 21, hoping extraterrestrials will come to save the chosen ones from the end of the world.
But both the researchers studying the possibility of catastrophes and scholars on Mayan culture agree that the imminent destruction of our world, in other words ‘doomsday’, is baseless and the interpretation of the calendar, erroneous.
Doomsday: It’s a collective delirium
NASA has clearly stated that, “Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”
Mayan scholar Mark Van Stone stated, “There is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012.”
Astronomer Don Yeomans, from NASA’s Near-Earth Object program in Pasadena, CA, told SPACE.com that, “Nibiru is ridiculous because it doesn’t exist–it never existed as anything other than a figment of the imagination by pseudo-scientists who don’t seem bothered by a complete lack of evidence.”
Still, people’s minds have been impressed by the end of the world theories. Hundreds are building bunkers and pyramids; moving to a more secure ground; scouting the sky for approaching comets or planets, collecting seeds, and buying survival kits, while others are cashing millions with books and movies predicting or depicting doomsday.
End of the world’s biggest impact: Not on the Earth but on our psyches
A global research company, Ipsos, polled 16,262 adults in 21 countries. According to the firm, one in seven people (14 percent) believes the world will come to an end during their lifetime and one in 10 people believes that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world. Another 10 percent of the participants in the survey confessed they are experiencing fear and anxiety from doomsday talks.
Interestingly enough, it’s China not the U.S., that hosts the largest percentage of believers in the end of the world in 2012, while Indonesia and Germany have the lowest percentages. In the U.S., 12 percent of the people are believers.
The survey did not account however for those people that instead of predicting the apocalypse, are preparing for a spiritual collective awakening or a metamorphosis on December 2012 – another generalized theory that has made Facebook groups and event pages bloom.
A doomsday is about darkness vs. light
The light – rebirthing, transformation, goodness, and dark – destruction, catastrophe, evil – archetypes play significant roles in all cultures. They are the core of novels, plays and movies.
The term “archetype” in Jungian psychology refers to a collective unconscious idea, pattern of thought or image that is universally imprinted in our minds.
Doomsday and apocalypse theories pervade all cultures and religions on Earth.
In modern days, the apocalyptic fear translates into beliefs of zombie pandemics, dread of nuclear war or environmental disasters, and also calamities caused by climate change. Since they’re rooted in true events, believers distrust authorities’ placatory efforts.
You might remember the big fear of the arrival of year 2000 and the two preceding decades where Zoroastrian and Nostradamus prophecies became a common subject for TV shows, lectures and books. And 2000 years ago, early Christians were also preparing for Armageddon.
This fear of the end of the world mirrored the terror previously experienced as the year 1000 approached. Delirious preaching, extreme penance and warning signs and wonders accompanied apocalyptic panic. People stopped working, gave up their belongings, abandoned their families and prepared for the Last Judgment.
Christianity and other religions – probably based on old Zoroastrian prophecies – include this idea of a Judgment Day that involves a collective resurrection and eternal paradise or everlasting punishment for saints and sinners respectively.
End of the world: Why human mind expects devastation instead of Nirvana
Our mind has a proclivity to believe that everything has a purpose, which implies a belief in destiny – a precondition to brew apocalyptic beliefs. But, why – researchers ponder – is it that humans tend to believe first in devastation and then in Nirvana?
Unconscious guilt, psychoanalysts would guess.
Much like Raskolnikov in Fedor Dostoyevsky’s literary masterpiece Crime and Punishment, humans expect (even unconsciously seek) punishment for their “bad deeds.” Apocalypse would be the opportunity to sort righteousness from evil, exterminate malevolence, purify the sinful and arise as a phoenix from the ashes.
Fears and guilt associated to an end of the world are fed up by religions promising Heaven or Nirvana to the well-behaved. But they’re also probably ingrained psychological mechanisms aiming at inhibiting antisocial behavior.
So before you panic about doomsday arriving this December 21, inform yourself through reliable sources and don’t succumb to unsubstantiated fears.