Unintended Repetition

The concept of unintended repetition sits closely with that of helplessness. In Freuds paper he speaks of the experience as one:

that transforms what would otherwise seem quite harmless into something uncanny and forces us to entertain the idea of the fateful and the inescapable, when we should normally speak of ‘chance’.”

In dreams this would manifest itself in the same helpless states that we have just discussed, or nightmares in which one is walking along a long hallway, going through the door at the end and finding yourself in the same hallway again. Other, real life, examples would be what we would otherwise refer to as chance, as Freud identifies, but manifest themselves in a way we consider frightening. For instance, the same number cropping up constantly in one day, such as using a classroom, getting an order number and a train seat that all share the number 34. These events are not causally related, but when they occur close together we find this uncanny.

Fig.2 'Neverending Nightmares'

Fig.2 ‘Neverending Nightmares’

When we entertain the experience of unintended repetition in the same field as helplessness, and combine the experiences, we can also consider experiences of dreamlike states where the repetition of situations lends to a feeling of helplessness. An excellent example of this is in the independent game ‘Neverending Nightmares’, by Infinitap Games (2014). In this dark survival horror, the player takes the role of a man plagued by a string of nightmares. Each time the player navigates Thomas, the main character, through the current nightmare they encounter a variety of monsters, depression inducing conditions and even scenes of self-harming. When the player dies via one of these encounters he ‘wakes up’ in the next nightmare, which become increasingly terrifying, gruesome and monster populated. The repetition of the narrative makes the player feel helpless in a world which they cannot control, and seemingly never escape. The games creator based the narrative on his own battle with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, stating that he was “trying to create that feeling of bleakness and hopelessness in Neverending Nightmares.


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