I recently re-watched the cult classic Harold and Maude, the black comedy about a death obsessed 18-year old. But underneath all the oddities, Harold had a real point, which was a strong need for acceptance for who he was, as he was. He just wanted to do his own thing, which wasn’t to die, but to be allowed to express himself in the manner he wanted. The only place he found acceptance was with a 79 year old woman, which is more than a little twisted, but understandable.
The Cat Stevens soundtrack that the movie is identified with, “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” reiterates the prevailing theme nicely. The lyrics are:
Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are
And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
‘Cause there’s a million things to do
You know that there are
The Harold character, even though it was only a movie, was strong enough to communicate to the world who he was, with all his peculiarities – that can take real character strength. Who can stand up to the world so nakedly? Peer pressure to conform to society’s norms drives most of us into mainly acceptable behavior.
I also just read the hugely popular book Gone Girl, the leading character Amy was another nut case, but in a psychopathic way. While it was fairly entertaining as a mystery, it was also telling on the same facet of human behavior – Amy just wanted to be accepted for who she was. She felt that she needed to pay a role, the “cool girl” or the “good wife” to be accepted, but who was she really? Again, it was just fiction, but not that far from the truth. Her parents said they just wanted Amy to be happy growing up, but she wonders how to be happy – they never taught her how.
So she created an image of what happiness was supposed to look like, but couldn’t get acceptance for who she really was. Not that this is any excuse for madness. But there is a valid point that we, social creatures all, want others to like and include us. But what happens when that need for acceptance bumps up against what we might really want to do? The selfish component of life vying for time and energy against the social component. Do we really communicate our true selves? Do we dare?
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: People are complicated. We say one thing and mean another – the discrepancy of which we expect others to telepathically understand! Life is hard enough without making waves by always being our true selves all the time. Often it’s just easier to go along and pick our battles, which means not communicating our real feelings 100% of the time. This is fine, as long as you know that you’re doing it and you make all your communication a conscious choice.