RIP OFF YOUR STRAIGHTJACKET, WILL YA?!

Seriously, it’s time to unbuckle the wretched thing once and for all. You know that “straightjacket.” It’s the one we strap around ourselves just about every day. Its buckles and straps are made up of our insistence on outlining, categorizing, detailing, and meticulously reviewing our flaws, weaknesses, shortcomings and “just not good enough” assessments of our abilities – from the way we give speeches to the way we play golf.

You know what I mean. Basically, I’m talking about our so-called “imperfections” – the stuff we think we’re “not good” at and won’t ever be good at…the stuff we make up about ourselves and believe. And since we believe it, we live it. And since we live it, we act it out - so it shows up as fact. Then we can say to ourselves (or somebody else) “See?? I told you I wasn’t good at that!!” And then we can be “right”…

It’s a wonder we haven’t driven ourselves crazy. Or maybe we have. And speaking of “crazy” and “straightjackets,” that brings us, naturally enough, to that wonderful (winner of all five major Academy Awards) 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You remember: “Mac” McMurphy (Nicholson), a “recidivist anti-authoritarian criminal” serving a short sentence on a prison farm for statutory rape, is transferred to a mental institution for evaluation.

McMurphy’s ward is run by the steely, unyielding, negative, mean-spirited Nurse Ratched (played by Louise Fletcher), who employs humiliation, “medical treatments” and mind-numbing daily routines to keep her patients not only controlled but cowed. McMurphy discovers that his fellow patients who range from a nervous and stuttering young man, to a high-strung, well-educated paranoid, to a giant American Indian (called the “Chief”) who pretends to be deaf and mute, are far more fearful of Nurse Ratched than they are determined to become functional citizens in the “outside world.”

So to loosen things up, McMurphy steals a hospital bus, herds his brother inmates aboard and takes the group deep sea fishing. At one point, he shouts at them, “You’re not nuts, you’re fishermen!” Of course, they all get into “trouble” with Ratched – which, of course, leads to electric shock therapy. And although the film doesn’t have a happy ending, some good things happen thanks to McMurphy’s refusal to be cowed, his determination to game the system and his ability to inspire his pals. The “Chief” starts talking, the stutterer stop stuttering, the paranoid guy stops looking over his shoulder and they all begin to feel stirrings of optimism and self-determination.

And Nurse Ratched even loses her strangle hold on them…

So listen, let’s not play “Nurse Ratched” in our own lives! Let’s shred that list of shortcomings and weaknesses – our own versions of “stuttering,” being “paranoid” or “mute.” Can you imagine how great you’ll feel when you bust out of that “straightjacket?”

Hey, when McMurphy returned to the ward after electric shock treatment (punishment for his “breaking out”), he gave his fellow inmates a big grin declared loudly that the treatment really “charged him up” and that the next woman to take him on “will light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars!” I bet you can top that…

Rip it off. Rip it all off.

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