A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Read


(permanent link) added: 2009-11-18 17:25:41 sponsor: Grain (last reply: 2009-11-18 17:25:41)

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Alice's life is going swell until she gains the ability to read minds. She becomes very distraught when she discovers that the vast majority of the people around her have very negative thoughts; she hears a lot of things that she was better off not knowing. She might hear random people thinking snide things all day long. Her friends may think that she's an idiot, are only using her, or maybe even wish that they'd never met her. Maybe she'll discover that the love of her life has been cheating on her since day one. Most likely, all of the above and more.

Alice's gift has ruined her life. She might opt on never using her powers in hopes of not alienating herself any further. If she's really unlucky, she won't be able to turn her power off. In this case, Alice will probably end up becoming a jaded misanthropist, a doleful hermit, or maybe just become really depressed.

This trope is a prime example of Humans Are Flawed. In more extreme examples, this trope might be evidence of a Crapsack World, and you can expect people to act like assholes as well as think like them. A villain may start out with this trope, and then go on to contemplate The Evils of Free Will.

This is a subtrope of Blessed with Suck and Telepathy.

See Also: Unhappy Medium.

Can be related to Power Incontinence.

Examples

Anime
  • Yoshiki, a high school student in Boogiepop Phantom, gains an incontinent ability to hear peoples' thoughts in episode nine, "You'll Never Be Young Twice". He promptly discovers that all of his friends dislike him, only sticking around to leech his money. He then gives his mind away to a bad guy out of desperation.
  • Mao's Geass in Code Geass makes him an example of this trope.
  • IIRC, Nodoka from Mahou Sensei Negima! refrains from using her artifact in fear of this.

Comic Books
  • Jean Grey, from X-Men, had this problem early on after her mutant ability surfaced.

Live-Action TV
  • Toshiko Sato of Torchwood gains telepathy in the episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts". She races home hurt and angry after hearing the thoughts of her co-workers.
  • This happens to Buffy in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Earshot".
  • True Blood: Sookie hears a great deal she doesn't want to, and people treat her as if she is stupid because her power makes her behave oddly.
  • Firefly: River is distraught by the thoughts of shipmates in the last episode, experiencing several upsetting emotions. In particular, it's implied that her brother blames her for the loss of his successful medical career.
  • On Star Trek: The Next Generation there was a Betazoid who had his ability from birth (most get theirs during puberty), who had this reaction to everybody. He was quite relieved when he met Data, who had no (organic) mind to read.
  • Babylon 5: Pretty much every teep ever.
  • In Star Trek, it's implied that Betazoids are afflicted by this as children and their brains learn to filter it out.
  • The bad '90s Outer Limits episode "What Will the Neighbors Think?"

Literature
  • A short story in the magazine Teen Ink had this as the premise.
  • In Graceling, mind readers tend to be terribly lonely and unhappy people, as a result of this.
  • The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries: Sookie never had control of her powers until getting with Bill and the other supernaturals. She is pretty much the personification of this trope.
  • Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon story "Two Heads Are Better Than One". A telepath suffers from Power Incontinence: he regularly makes full contact with any mind within a certain radius, which causes him great distress. One time it's so bad he tries to bash his own head open to make it stop.
  • Andre Norton's The Zero Stone. In order to convince a Patrol officer that he's innocent of the crimes he's accused of, Murdoc Jern is mentally joined to the officer by his companion Eet. It's extremely uncomfortable for both men.
  • Subversion: In Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man, Police Prefect Lincoln Powell is an Esper, one of a small minority who can read minds. His boss the Commissioner is prejudiced against Espers. So, in order to try to soften the prejudice, Powell tells the Commissioner how lucky he is that he can't read minds, because of this trope. Of course, Powell is lying, since he doesn't read minds except on invitation (or unless he suspects criminal acts), and Powell actually finds much to love in every mind.

Video Games
  • Metal Gear Solid has Psycho Mantis. He stated in his Final Speech that as a kid he was unable to shut off his powerful Mind Reading ability (learning that his father hated him, ouch), and that apparently looking too deep in too many minds of SerialKillers drove him off the deep end. Apparently he still couldn't completely shut off his Telepathy since he asked for his mask back to block the voices out, and complained about "How everyone thinks of only one thing. Squick!

Western Animation

Other
  • An original work by Troper Jewely J features an antagonist who was driven mad by this trope. She states that she has always believed in this trope. She doesn't get why so many people and shows and books act like reading minds is such a cool thing. You don't WANT to know whats going on in her head. Sometimes, even she wishes that she didn't know.

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