Let’s talk about Mass Effect. And how Commander Shepard can overcome anything.
When the universe needs saving, humanity (as well as the Batarian, Salarian, Krogan, Turian races) turn to no one else but Commander Shepard. Overcoming odds that the Citadel and the Illusive Man would call impossible, he was brought back from the grave to do a Chuck Norris against the forces of evil. Bioware’s script for Mass Effect stressed, from time to time, Shepard’s extraordinary ability to lead a team into the very gates of hell, through it, and back. It was the precise reason that the Illusive Man invested two years into bringing the commander back to life, building him piece by piece without a control chip installed.
Shepard is 29 years old and comes from a varied history as determined by the player. Despite the background, it seems that he can challenge the impossible — twice, cheat death and come back in one piece with little casualty to his crew. Why?
Shepard still retains, what Dr. Albert Abraham Mason calls the youthful omnipotence.
I was listening to a podcast with Dr. Mason as guest — in his prime, he held two professions as a doctor and a hypnotist. He would apply hypnosis, under the approval of his hospital and superior to certain patients — he’s delivered about 20 babies with the patients under hypnosis. He would cure asthma and warts by simply making patients believe that that they were cured. He was exploring the placebo effect and as it turns out the human brain is its own pharmacy, containing just about the same types of chemicals to cure itself (yes, the human body also contains a stock pile of opium).
This became a phenomenon in the medical world when he came to cure a boy with fish scale disease. He completely cured the right arm of the boy by simply hypnotizing the patient to believe that the “warts” would fall off after a week. In a convention with the medical community, the director general told him that “everybody knows that this is an incurable disease” and to the shock of everyone, detailed evidence was presented with the treatment of the boy since everything was done in a hospital.
After this was published, many other patients with odd diseases, including fish scale, came to see him. The odd thing was that after his first patient’s success story, it was never replicated. Mason was stumped. It was either he was doing the “treatment” wrong or it had something to do with him, personally.
He later on theorized that the reason why he was successful with the first patient was due to his youthful omnipotence … at 25 he felt like he could do anything. But the moment the director general told him that the disease was incurable, it stuck subconsciously and had an effect on his hypnosis treatments.
At the beginning of Mass Effect 1, you are tasked to fill in the blanks of Shepard’s backstory: as an abandoned colonist with friends and family slaughtered, earth-born who grew up in the slums, or born on a ship, parented by nomads. Either which history you choose, it seems that Shepard’s childhood led him to reach a certain youthful infallibility to become independent and never complacent.
That is why it has become second nature to him to overcome insurmountable odds.