Before tonight, I had not seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for Years. Over that timespan, I began to hear this person or that referred to as a Nurse Ratched. It has been enlightening to watch Cuckoo’s Nest again–simply to reacquaint myself with the Nurse Ratched’s of the world.
I often write about narcissism, and in observing Nurse Ratched, we are allowed to witness the manipulative pranks of one type of narcissistic personality type. The interesting thing is that Nurse Ratched is supposedly the sanest person around–she is the overseer and the caretaker of an insane asylum. Shouldn’t she be extremely sane? Unfortunately, she is not. In fact, she may be far more dangerously ill than the people that she “helps.”Nurse Ratched simply has a type of illness that is acceptable. Like someone with walking pneumonia, Nurse Ratched is functionally insane.
Nurse Ratched is a type of narcissist. One of the narcissist’s best tricks is that he is able to fool most people around himself. Narcissists are able to step into one role or another, and in almost every instance, the roles that they choose are those of people that society admires.
For instance, some narcissists are powerful CEO’s and politicians. Because this type of narcissist is able to conceal his true motives, society sees them as brilliant and successful. The Nurse Ratched narcissists of the world fool society into believing that they are the saviors–the selfless givers and caretakers–the angels.
In every case that I have seen, narcissists are wounded people who use their camouflaging behaviors to gain approval. As long as their ruses are working and as long as they are getting the approval that they seek, they are able to run on a fairly even keel, but when their camouflages are stripped away and light is flashed on their true motives, narcissists begin to behave in inappropriate ways. At the very least, they become outraged.
Early in the movie, we see Nurse Ratched dispensing medicine in the ward. She begins to play soupy music and everyone begins a mindless processional toward the altar for the high priestess to provide them with the host. This was all working smoothly until Jack Nicholson appears on the scene and begins the process of challenging Nurse Ratched’s authority and of showing the type of person that she truly is.
Notice in the following clip that Ratched still has that smooth, fake, holier-than-thou super-sweet tone and behavior going for her.
As the movie progresses, Nurse Ratched’s overwhelmingly nice facade begins to slip, and toward the end of the movie, she begins to behave as the wicked person that she truly is–beneath her manipulative veil.
Ultimately, Nurse Ratched wins in the power struggle with Jack Nicholson. Because of her, a frontal lobotomy is performed on him. Before that time, he was probably the least insane person on the ward [certainly less insane than Nurse Ratched is]. Because she cannot exercise control over Nicholson otherwise, she rendered him totally and permanently incapable of dissent. It was not a maneuver to help Nicholson–it s]was a way that Ratched could resume her power, her control, and her manipulative facade.
One of the outakes from the movie is that we are left, asking ourselves who is truly sane and who is insane. What you see is not always what is there. Narcissicism is a psychiatric diagnosis, but all of us have a touch of narcissism. It is the way that we survive. When that touch of narcissism is swelled out of proportion, the narcissist becomes a menace.
I recommend watching Cuckoo’s Nest. It is enlightening. Everyone needs to learn to pick out the Nurse Ratcheds around themeselves. They are ticking bombs.
©Jacki Kellum February 27, 2016