In the 1932 film Freaks a popular chant about acceptance was featured in a scene that has since become meme-worthy. Using a less culturally sensitive description, one source summarizes the plot and mantra thusly:
The central story is of this conniving trapeze artist Cleopatra, who seduces and marries sideshow midget Hans after learning of his large inheritance. At their wedding reception, the other “freaks” announce that they accept Cleopatra in spite of her being a “normal” outsider; they hold an initiation ceremony in which they pass a massive goblet of wine around the table while chanting, “We accept her, we accept her. One of us, one of us. Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.”
With little doubt, a horror film predominately featuring a disabled cast isn’t without controversy. Nonetheless, in one review of the film a critic stated, “One of the most powerful films ever made about the need for humanity and solidarity in the face of cruelty and oppression.”
What I appreciate about the chant is that Cleopatra was accepted by those who were considered unacceptable within society. Admission by the “freaks” addresses the issue of gatekeeping—the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something.
Have you ever been denied access to resources due to the actions of those who watch the gates within society? Increasingly, I observe people within the United States (U.S.) practicing exclusion on the basis of arbitrary factors related to in-group and out-group preference.
In-group preference may be described as selective behavior exhibited by an exclusive group of people with a shared interest or identity. For instance, being invited to celebrate at a tailgate party with your fellow football fans demonstrates this favorable treatment.
An out-group is distinguished by those people who don’t belong to a specific in-group. Rejection from being able to participate in celebratory activities with an opposing football team’s fans is an example of out-group exclusion.
In Freaks, Cleopatra could have been excluded for not having been a disabled person though the “freaks” opted to accept her. How might their behavior be mirrored for the improvement of relations in the U.S.?
People from opposite political parties, different religious faiths, and opposing sociocultural perspectives could agree to set aside their differences and accept each other despite opposing views. Perhaps to you this sounds too Pollyannaish—unrealistically optimistic.
If so, have you considered the concept of unconditional acceptance? Without being subject to unhelpful conditions, a person can receive something as it is rather than demanding it ought not to be that way.
I like to think of this healthy technique in alignment with the is-ought problem which suggests that when faced with what is people cannot insist upon what they think ought to be otherwise. For example, you may not like traffic (is) though requiring that there be no other vehicles on the road when you drive (ought) isn’t reasonable.
When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I invite people to use unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance as a means of reducing self-disturbance. Using the traffic example, you could reason, “While I don’t like congested highways, other people don’t have to acquiesce to my commands.”
Challenging irrational beliefs could change how you feel (emotion and bodily sensation) and how you behave. Ultimately, you are the gatekeeper of your own response to the abundant situations you encounter in life.
Instead of upsetting yourself with the many instances in life with which you’re faced, you could joyfully chant, “I accept it, I accept it. One of many, one of many. Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.”
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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