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Sense Loss Sadness
I feel nothing! Not the wind on my face or the spray of the sea. Or the warmth of a woman's flesh.
Hector Barbosa, Pirates of the Caribbean

This is when a character has one or more of their senses deadened, sometimes to the point of total insensibility. This can happen because of an accident, damage to an organ/nerve, becoming a cyborg/robot (in which case, expect this to contribute to Cybernetics Eat Your Soul), suffering from And I Must Scream, or becoming one of The Undead.

Just as in real life, the character will feel horrified and distraught over losing such a fundamental (and undervalued in hindsight) faculty. They will probably lament that while they can "feel" something, it doesn't cause pain or pleasure or comfort. Feelings of alienation are sure to follow, and an identity crisis is rarely far behind.

Interestingly, this might be counterbalanced thanks to Disability Superpower granting Super Senses in another faculty, or even oracular ability a la Blind Seer. However, a non-human or superpowered character who had senses past the standard five and lost one (like Telepathy, X-Ray Vision, or something stranger), the anguish will be no less acute. He, she or it will have to learn to make do with the puny five human senses.

A Sense Freak will likely find this the only form of torture that isn't kinky. The Deaf Composer keeps on making music (or other art) despite this loss. See also Sensory Overload and Brought Down to Normal. The opposite is First Time Feeling.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Max Damage from Incorruptible goes through this every time he wakes up. He only gets about an hour of normal senses before his invulnerability robs him of his senses of touch and taste.
  • In the Hellraiser comics, Pinhead wishes to become human again because all Cenobites experience Sense Loss Sadness when they are transformed, and he is sick of it. But to do that, he needs to find a suitable replacement...
  • The titular character in Paul Chadwick's Concrete had an interesting combination of this and Super Senses. Concrete is a man whose brain, for reasons unknown, was transplanted by aliens into an eight-foot tall, sexless body made out of a substance similar to, well, concrete. Because of this, he has no sense of taste or smell at all, and his sense of touch is extremely limited. (He can feel being shot by an AK-47, but that's about it.) His hearing seems to be unchanged. His one consolation: his eyesight is far better than any human being. He can read newsprint from fifty feet away, or count the feathers of an eagle flying overhead. This one super-sense doesn't make up for the loss or near-loss of three others (or the loss of his genitals), but it's something.
  • In Sojourn, Mordath was imbued with the Sigil's power after he had already been dead for centuries, so he returns as a powerful undead being. Being one of The Undead, most of his senses are gone. He explains to his lieutenants that this is why he is so focused on conquest. He can no longer savor the scent of a flower, the taste of an apple, or the feel of a woman. The satisfaction of conquering and ruling everything is the only pleasure left to him.
  • The Scarecrow from Batman has been written to have this dilemma recently. He is distraught that he can no longer feel fear (in spite of that being what he wanted) and needs Batman in order to feel afraid.

  • The movie Perfect Sense is all about a potentially apocalyptic disease that slowly robs people of their senses, one by one. Oddly, the angst also comes before the loss, as attacks are preceded by severe emotional outbursts.
  • The crew of the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean is cursed with living undeath, which makes them completely immortal and nearly unstoppable. This would be a pirate's dream, except they can feel nothing but hunger and pain. Naturally, they gripe about it quite a bit and seek to undo the curse.
  • Part of Renard the Anarchist for being, well, an anarchist in The World Is Not Enough is that there is a bullet in his head that removes his ability to feel pain. While it does mean he can push his body further than a normal human, it also means he can't enjoy getting intimate with his love/ Stockholm Syndrome-afflicted heiress Electra King.
  • In Walk Hard, Dewey Cox psychosomatically loses his sense of smell due to emotional trauma after accidentally causing the death of his brother. He regains it decades later after coming to terms with his inner demons and reconciling with his beloved wife and many, many children.

  • There's a spy novel where the hero is charged with retrieving a superweapon, which turns out to be a gun that disconnects every one of the victim's senses (the hero knows it's fired because the victims are thrashing on the ground, screaming like there's no tomorrow). In the end, he destroys it.
  • Cordwainer Smith's classic SF short story, "Scanners Live in Vain," features humans whose sensory nerves have been cut to allow them to deal with an unbearable pain that is a side effect of space travel. The story explores how they deal with it, and how the loss makes most of them, well, a little crazy.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • When Leia's children are abducted in The Crystal Star, an alien caretaker is hit with the equivalent of a high-power flashbang. She is seen later, standing alone with an apathetic expression. It is explained that though she seems unhurt, her hearing has been damaged - it is now about human level - which for her is devastating, since her species uses subtler inaudible-to-humans sounds to express emotion.
    • The Star Wars EU also has ysalamiri, creatures that "push back" the Force. People next to one can't feel the Force. In The Thrawn Trilogy, when they're introduced, this is uncomfortable and limiting but Force-Sensitives grit their teeth and get on with it. Authors who want those same characters taken down a peg bring out the ysalamiri and invoke this trope, as in The New Rebellion. Interestingly, in I, Jedi Corran Horn likens being around ysalamiri to becoming colorblind, but also notes that Luke, whose Force-Sensitivity has been active for so much longer and who must feel its repression more keenly, is more optimistic and upbeat. Being cut off from the greater galaxy means he's not as aware of his overwhelming responsibilities as the only active Jedi Master.
    • Here's how the "pushing back" is introduced. Luke wakes up imprisoned and somehow can't sense the woman talking to him. She mocks him, welcoming him back to the world of mere mortals.
    -and with a surge of adrenaline, Luke realized that the strange mental veiling wasn't limited to just her. He couldn't sense anything. Not people, not droids, not even the forest beyond his window.
    It was like going blind.
    • Dengar has a version of this detailed in Tales of the Bounty Hunters. After he took massive brain damage, the Empire rebuilt him with enhanced senses and a chemically-induced Photographic Memory... but they also cut away his ability to feel all emotions except for anger, hope, and - accidentally - loneliness. The idea was to make him into a dedicated bounty hunter, who could use anger while on the hunt, who would feel no moral compunctions and whose hope that the Empire would do as promised and fix his mind if he served well enough would make him serve. Without compassion or sorrow, he wouldn't have that pesky morality in the way. Ironically, he still refused to kill a group of religious children that rebuffed the Empire's demands - he knew it was wrong from an objective standpoint - and left their service, and eventually had most of his emotions restored by a technoempath woman he ended up marrying. (Boba Fett was the best man.)
    • The Yuuzhan Vong are an entire race that went through this at once in their backstory when their warmongering destroyed their sentient homeworld. The death of the Vong's homeworld severed their connection to the Force and caused them terrible agony. Their cultural obsession with pain is their means of coping with their lost symbiosis and Force connection.
  • The children's book Follow My Leader deals very realistically with a boy who has to learn to readjust to life after losing his vision. Fortunately, he has the help of a guide dog.
  • Schussler the Cyborg, in Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, is a human brain installed within a hyper-advanced starship by an alien race after a shipwreck. This has cut him off from touch, smell and taste, meaning that while he gladly flies people around, he tends to badger them to describe in detail the taste of whatever food they're eating or the scent of a perfume. He also desperately wants to die, but cannot self-terminate. Close to the end, Cain gives him what he wants and orders him to fly into the nearest star.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Angel after her depowerment Illyria mourns her new inability to hear "the song of the green", i.e. plants.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, Cavil is furious over never having had machine senses/sensors and being "trapped" as an Artificial Human. That machine/man had serious issues.
  • In Charmed, an Empath gives up his power to stop a demon and becomes so depressed by the loss that he ends up in a psychiatric hospital. He gets over it eventually, when he realises he can still help people even without his powers.
  • The Invisible Man: Augustin Gaither became Thomas Walker this way. After losing all his senses except touch, he built a "sensor array" that was wired directly into his brain, granting him a very limited form of sight and hearing and translating speech to braille for him.
    • Darien also finds other subjects of the same experiment. These "insensates" have gone mad and spend their time scratching themselves and walking into walls. Anything to feel something.
  • In Kamen Rider OOO, an overwhelming hunger for sensation combined with dulled senses is revealed to be part of the reason the Greeed became evil. When Ankh gets a human body he becomes a minor Sense Freak who eats enormous amounts of ice lollipops.
    • Conversely, when Eiji and Dr Maki begin transforming into Greeed, they slowly lose their senses.
  • In Little House on the Prairie, this trope provides the series' ultimate Tear Jerker when the moment the Ingalls were dreading happens and Mary's declining eyesight goes completely.
  • One episode of Scrubs has JD screw up medications and cause a patient to lose his sense of smell. The guy is understandably distraught and angry over this. At the end of the episode it is revealed that it was just the progression of his condition and not JD's fault at all, but JD allows him to continue thinking that it was because it helps the patient cope with the loss to have someone to blame.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Loss". Counselor Troi loses her telepathic/empathic abilities due to contact with alien life forms. She has difficulty functioning as Ship's Counselor after this due to her dependence on the abilities. Fortunately, Riker and Guinan give her each a firm Quit Your Whining speech with Riker calling her out on how smug she was with her powers and Guinan announcing that she was going to take over as Ship's Councillor since Troi, who is formally trained in the position on top of her powers, is doing nothing useful. These paired kick in the pants gets Troi to do her job, and find that her skills are adequate on their own to save the day just before she gets her powers back.

    Radio Drama 
  • In the arc in the Eighth Doctor Big Finish Doctor Who stories taking place in a dimension where time does not exist, the Doctor becomes depressed, grouchy, and morbid when he effectively loses his time-related senses because of the aforementioned absence of time.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Full Conversion 'Borgs in Rifts lose about 70-80% of their sense of touch when they transfer into their mechanical bodies. Because they're given massive amounts of psychological screening before they undergo the surgery, most still consider it a decent trade-off for the sheer power, but they still feel down about it from time to time. Apparently, though, you eventually completely forget you don't have human eyes or ears.
  • Warhammer 40,000 gives us the worshippers of Slaanesh, who revel in any form of sensation, from the ecstatically pleasurable to the excruciatingly painful. Occasionally, the Inquisition feels the need to torture them. To do it, they stick them in a sensory deprivation tank and wait for them to crack. It doesn't take long.
    • Since Chaos has a sick sense of humor, most Slaanesh worshippers eventually experience Sense Loss Sadness anyway. They need to seek out more and more intense stimuli to feel anything as their senses become deadened. The lucky ones die before their senses do.

    Video Games 
  • The Jedi Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II has an option of saying "Imagine all your senses dead. At once" when Atton asks her about how it feels like to be cut away from The Force.
  • Collette's angel transformation in Tales of Symphonia. She starts by losing her taste, then the ability to sleep, then pain, then her voice, then finally loses her soul, through her heart and memory.
    • It turns out that this was actually planned as part of gaining her angel powers. Cruxis's goal was to make her into a puppet, and therefore wanted to get rid of the personal senses that made her human.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake loses the use of one eye during a torture sequence. Later, when he's recuperating, there's a sad moment where he fails to grab a butterfly because he lost his depth deception.
    • Becomes a crowning moment of awesome when he forms some C4 into a butterfly, tosses it in the air, smoothly catches it, and slams it into place to blow the target sky high
  • Completely inverted by Sandro in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. In The Shadow of Death, we see his gradual transformation into a lich. In one mission he is shown musing on how much better life is without flesh. No more itchiness, hygiene concerns, or foul odors to worry about anymore. He's also happy to be rid of his lust, seeing that as a distraction.
  • Played for Laughs in Portal2 when Cave Johnson uploads his mind into a supercomputer:
Cave Johnson: You know what I'd really like to do? Scratch my nose.
  • Fossil Maiden from Hellsinker suffered from this before meeting with Saraga-maru.
  • While both Shizune's (a deaf from birth girl) and Lilly's (a blind from birth girl) routes of Katawa Shoujo touch upon this trope, it's mostly the latter one that dedicates whole dialogues (and two of the game's most memorable scenes, by most accounts) to deconstructing, discussing, and reconstructing it. Having never experienced the sensation of sight in her life, Lilly obviously doesn't feel as if she's "lost" anything, especially given the fact that her other senses are sharper to compensate (when the protagonist asks her if she's not sad about not being able to say, she jokingly asks him if he's sad about not being able to hear what people in the next room are saying). While occasionally frustrated with not being able to see (especially when something completely out of the ordinary happens, leaving her frozen and feeling powerless as for how to respond), her attitude towards her missing sense most often seems to be one of intrigue: she is fascinated with the concept of color in an almost spiritual fashion (which is fitting, since she's no more capable of imagining color than a regular person would be of imagining divinity), and wonders about how other people dream (amusingly asking the protagonist "Do you see in your dreams?", a question whose opposite is stereotypically directed at the blind). Sight and sensation-play even feature heavily into her romantic scenes.

    Web Comics 
  • Black Mage of Eight Bit Theater first noticed he was no longer king of Hell when he lost his eight new senses.
  • Xykon of The Order of the Stick snapped when he realized that his transformation into a lich robbed him of his sense of taste.
    • More like Sense Loss Unstoppable Rage as he immediately executes an innocent (well, she was fiendish but hadn't done anything) waitress. He was bad before, but this truly made him a monster.
    Xykon: I didn't taste...anything.
    Waitress: Is everything OK? I can get you another-
    Xykon: Shut up. (Bisects her)
  • Played with (inverted?) in Homestuck. Terezi Pyrope is blind, but her lusus taught her to taste and smell colors, so the fact that her eyes don't work doesn't really inconvenience or bother her at all (she can even read by licking her computer screen). However, during the three-year timeskip, she broke down and asked Aranea to heal her eyes. Having her sight back wound up making her even more miserable than she was at the time. When she started to break out of her slump, the first sign was when she alchemized herself a blindfold so she could focus on taste and smell again.
    • Latula, her dancestor who instead lost her smell, isn't in focus enough for this to be entirely clear but seems to play it straight and pretend that she's fine with it while actually clearly disliking that she lost it.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Futurama Fry's "human horn" (ie, nose) is harvested by aliens to be sold as a black markest aphrodisiac for aliens. Futurama being Futurama, this causes him to lose his entire sense of smell until his nose is reattached.
    • In another, Bender is upset because, as a robot, he has no sense of taste. At one point he says that he'd give up his other eight senses, even "smision"note , to be able to taste things.
  • Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants, when Patrick gains a sense of smell—and immediately hates being surrounded by foul odors.
  • Metallo does this in Superman: The Animated Series in his introduction episode before he turns on Luthor. He is a mercenary diagnosed with a fatal disease. Lex Luthor offers a cure - to transfer his thoughts and brain patterns into a Killer Robot, powered by Kryptonite. Naturally Metallo is sent to kill Superman, but he soon realizes he cannot smell, taste or feel anything. Superman eventually defeats him by pointing out Luthor infected him in the first place to try out the experiment, and he turns against Luthor.

    Real Life 
  • A lot of people who suffer from Anosmia (lack of sense of smell) tend to fall into deep depression because of it.
    • Although that's only for people who become anosmic later in life, and can happen to anyone who loses any sense (such as being blinded or deafened by an accident). Those who are born without it tend to not realize they're missing out on anything - or later realize they're missing out on the bad and the good, and not smelling the roadkill skunk is pretty awesome when the rest of the car is gagging. However, you have to remember that the majority of taste also comes from your sense of smell, so your ability to enjoy food and drink disappears as well.
      • That's not quite true. You lose the ability to differentiate flavors, so for example a strawberry and an orange would taste about the same. but you retain the actual sense of taste, so you can still detect sweet, sour, salty, savory, and bitter. Of course, when you get a sweet tooth, you'd probably skip the candy bar and just buy a bag of sugar, since they'd taste the same to you.
    • One of the more tragic cases of Anosmia is the late lead singer of INXS, Michael Hutchence. Following an accident, he lost most of his senses of taste and smell - which crushed him, since he was something of a hedonist. Ultimately, he killed himself, partially from the despair over the loss.
  • A strange but terrible inversion. Sense Loss Sadness is awful, so Sense Gain Awesomeness is the best thing ever, right? Not so fast; after the procedure to restore eyesight was developed many people who had the operation took their own lives. It is believed that they had subconsciously built the change up as a turning point for all of their problems and were crushed to realize that this was not so.
    • To a lesser degree, a lot of people who've been blind all their lives until a treatment for whatever made them blind became available found that because their brains hadn't developed the ability to process visual input, and because they'd learned how to get along without sight, found that it just wasn't all it was cracked up to be. At the very least, you're starting from scratch when it comes to learning how to understand and do anything with the that weird funky color-y thing that now just sorta happens when you look at stuff. Apparently, depth perception is especially tough to get the hang of.

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