The Old Mixer wrote:
In Picard's case, I imagine that once the experience was over, it was like waking up from a dream...he knew who he was, he knew that what he'd just experienced was an elaborate illusion, and recent memories of his true life were fresh. Certainly there would have been some disorientation, but relatively briefly.
In "Hard Times", O'brien acts very much like someone who really just completed a 20-year prison sentence. Yes he realizes that it was all fake afterwards but it was so real to him that it affected him greatly, much more than, say, a simple nightmare would.
Also, according to the episode, O'brien didn't simply have fake memories "implanted". He really experienced them even if only in his mind. The best analogy would be as if he were plugged into a "Matrix" like machine except that this machine allowed one to experience things in a 2hour:20year ratio. This is why Bashir says he can't erase them because he really experienced them, even though the experience was simulated. IOW, the memories were not FAKE in the sense they were implanted but that the memories were REAL but the memories came from a SIMULATED experience.
Another way to look at it is imagine that all of this took place in a holodeck but with the following additions:
- [ETA] O'brien did not know until the "program" ended that he was in a holodeck but thought he was really in a real prison all along
- the holodeck was run in a "time-dilated" environment so that 20years inside the holodeck=2 hours outside of it
- at the end of the holodeck program, whatever happened to him "physically" in terms of aging, etc, the Argrathi were able to reverse
This scenario would be almost equivalent to what I believe O'brien experienced. (I also think that Picard experienced something equivalent to this as well).
So I disagree with everyone that says that it was "implanted memories". Rather it is my belief that both Picard and O'brien actually experienced what happened but that the experience was simulated in their minds. Certainly in "Hard Times" that is made much more explicit.