By Mike McMahan, LPC
Halloween has rolled around again. It’s a time when we all like a good fright. And maybe a laugh, too? Horror and comedy have made a perfect match for a long time. Psychology main man Sigmund Freud believed that humor could be used to expression aggression in a socially acceptable manner. This brings us to Scream Queens, a horror/comedy mashup show that expresses all sorts of tasteless ideas in a most, well, tasteless fashion.
The focal point of the show is one Chanel Oberlin, a superficial girl who is nearly sociopathic in her disregard for others and in her callous manipulations with only one goal in mind: keep her presidency of the KKT sorority and keep its social standing on campus as high as possible. Does she have minions to help her in this task? Of course. The delightfully named “Chanels”… (Chanel #2, Chanel #3, etc.). So self-absorbed is she, that it is unclear if she even knows the girl’s real names (although she did acknowledge that Chanel #6 should not be called by her given name, “Hester,” so there’s that).
But is there anything Chanel can teach us, despite her callous, evil ways? Why, yes, there is! And that something is the importance of a support system. Because, whether she appreciates them or not, the other Chanels do serve as a support system for Chanel Prime. And, as they're in college AND a sorority, they serve as a fairly typical example of how people go about building support systems. Often friend and social networks form around a common interest and in a situation where people can let their guard down.
A common question that I hear from clients is about how to go about building a support system, especially if you have let connections drift away or moved to a new city, perhaps for a job opportunity. It’s easier for young people, as a big part of making friends is being around new people in a situation where you can let your guard down. Often, school can provide that opportunity. But as we age and enter careers, professional goals and workplace etiquette often make it challenging to let our guard down and let our “true selves” shine. Social media can be a double edged sword. We may have hundreds (or even thousands) of friends, but feel as if we have no real connections. Again, we may turn to Chanel and her Chanels, who met through a common activity. Perhaps your school days are behind you, but activities remain a key way to meet friends outside of work. These activities can range from sports to church to book clubs. It is wise to choose an activity that you actually enjoy, so that if you don’t begin making friends right away it won’t seem like such a chore. A site like meetup.com can be a great place to start, as it is easy to complete a search based on interests.
Support systems are important for any number of reasons. A strong network of friends and family increases self-esteem and self-worth, helps us ward off loneliness and gives us a sense of security. Having a network of friends and family can reduce negative effects of trying events such as job loss or the end of a romantic relationship. Friends can help us recognize our strengths and positive qualities, which can, in turn, be used to solve problems that we face in our lives. Having someone to vent to is a healthy way to manage negative emotions. A strong sort support system has been shown to reduce stress, which in turn can help mitigate depression. Numerous studies have shown that close emotional ties with others reduce stress, increase immune system strength and reduce cardiovascular disease. Conversely, the lack of a support system can increase recovery time after a major illness.
Will Chanel experience these benefits? I’m guessing…maybe not! But, all kidding aside, if sociopathic sorority girls need friends, isn’t it important for the rest of us mere mortals? So, please, spend some time building your support system, and make sure you’re there when the other members of your team need you. But try to use these powers for good, not evil…!
Please note: this post has been revised and expanded since its original publication.
Mike McMahan, LPC is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture