“Joker” May Be Silently Happening To All Of Us
Plus, the root cause of my personal anxiety.
What really happens when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?
The answer to this question is that he will, almost invariably, transform into a beast. The only variables are in the degree and form of his retaliation, which is highly correlated to the degree of the abandonment.
Many of us face injustices, or perceived injustices. They come in various forms, such as physical abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, lack of appreciation, and so on. They occur anytime we find ourselves hurt or offended by the actions of another person. It is rarely the intent of the perpetrator, which we understand, and our agreeableness and desire to avoid conflicts will cause us to ignore the slights and absorb the hits, but there is a hit nonetheless.
Often, we get so accustomed to taking the punches that we hardly even recognize them as offenses, but our minimizing comes at a cost to ourselves or to those who endure similar “excused” offenses from us. When the punches are absorbed within ourselves, that cost will often manifest as depression, anxiety, or both, much like Arthur Fleck had, as seen in his involuntary laughter that contradicted his true emotions, among other things.
This is a little off track from the subject of this article, but I’m going to share something personal for any readers that battle with anxiety: I am no stranger to feelings of depression and anxiety, but the latter is only something I’ve intensely experienced in the past year or so, and because of its sudden onset and the events that would trigger it, I was able to recognize it as an irregular feeling for me. That heightened awareness of something different increased my determination to get to the bottom of its cause, so I could nip it in the bud. What I realized, after digging deep, was that the offense was always some form of a neglect to consider the impact that someone else’s personal best interest had on me, especially because I would consistently and deliberately consider my impact on them before acting in my best interest. In other words, while I would do my best to act for the greater good, they would act in their own best interest, intentionally or unintentionally neglecting the impact it might have on me, and since their choice is usually seen as the “socially acceptable” thing to do, I (or I should say, my body) would often not recognize it until the next day, since it was never a direct punch to me. So, ultimately, the anxiety would be caused by a combination of their neglect of me and my neglect of myself in silently excusing their behavior.
Whenever we do experience injustice, there are two ways we can react: to absorb or to retaliate. Society tends to send us the message that it is more noble to absorb and be the bigger person, which to some degree is true, but there is only a small amount that we can absorb without reparations before a beast is born within us.
Obviously, the stress, pressure and neglect felt by the joker ultimately came to a boil and his beast and “good person” persona were inverted. However, many of us never consciously reach the level of that transformation, but depression and anxiety are clear indications that the beast exists, silently brooding from injustice and resentment. Our denial of it causes psychological problems, not just for us, but also for other people. For instance, Arthur’s mother, Penny, lived her whole life denying her beast, absorbing punches, and likely seeing herself as a noble person. Her docile attitude may have seemed moral, but her lack of self awareness also caused her to eventually become a silent beast to her son because she was so consumed with her own needs.
So, in a sense, the beast is inevitable, and denying it is to tell ourselves a self serving lie that only we believe, but if the negative impact of it is not so felt severely by the impacted, it can lay undetected for generations upon generations. Being aware of the injustice and trying to absorb may be something the strong can do, but no matter how strong you are, all humans have a limit. Wisdom is knowing what that limit is and being careful not to allow ourselves to near it, but for those that, for whatever reason, find themselves at the end of these bounds, taming that beast becomes necessary.
As for Arthur, in the end scenes of ‘Joker,’ he expresses multiple times to Murray that he did not commit murders to stand up for any sort of cause and that it was more for himself than anything else. This implies that he could just as easily do the same to a supporter and follower of the movement he started, since his only interest is in protecting himself. There seems to be very little humanity left in him; the only proof of what may remain is in the fact that he doesn’t kill people that were good to him, and presumptuously, that he still has a soft spot for children, however, we can also deduce that in the event that he viewed either as a threat, rational or irrational, they may also become a target.
The question then becomes, how does one tame the beast in favor of keeping their humanity at the forefront?
The only way is to recognize the injustice inflicted on them, and make a conscious effort to not become a part of the problem by continuing the subconscious trend. In other words, they must rely on their morality for their decisions. This act requires courage at every step, starting with the courage to be self aware and face one’s own wrong-doings in order to start anew, to acting against the temptation to unleash their beast in minor attacks, and being able to discern the situations where retaliation is actually called upon after all other options have been exhausted. In this effort, they’d naturally end up standing for a cause, rather than just to settle a personal vendetta — an option that could easily have no bounds without the self awareness that it would lack, even in it’s initiation.
Overall, Joker was a must-see movie that has earnestly initiated awareness and discussion around a topic that our society normally prefers to disassociate from— mental illness, and I, for one, can appreciate that.
About the writer: Ava Sharma is an entrepreneur and thought leader with a passion for psychology and motivational leadership. Her website is: AcademianNut.com