Follow TV Tropes


Conditioned to Accept Horror

Go To
"You get used to it."
The Priestess, Goblin Slayer

A character who is conditioned to accept a rather horrible, disturbing fate in life does so with a smile on their face. Why must they engage in this Senseless Waste of Human Life? As it turns out, they've been conditioned for it. Literally. Their life, memories, and personal experiences have all been deliberately designed so that they genuinely enjoy, understand, and accept the macabre world they've been placed in, even as people from a different context are terrified just observing them.

This is a very cerebral trope, as the ability of a person to accept such gruesomeness as commonplace and accept their fate without thinking about it raises a lot of questions about the human condition. Don't be surprised if some authors try to sidestep the issue entirely by having the heroes "educate" the conditioned target as to the right way of thinking.


For specific character types, the Barrier Maiden is sometimes trained this way to get them to accept their job. The Apocalypse Maiden might be told they need to be sacrificed so that they don't, y'know, bring about the apocalypse. Sometimes overlaps with Face Death with Dignity, this person often seems to be a Martyr Without a Cause until the reasons are explained (and sometimes even after).

A common component of Training from Hell and The Spartan Way. Overlaps with Let's Meet the Meat when the horror part comes from a food source being sapient. Can be part of a Crapsaccharine World. Compare with Epiphanic Prison and Safety in Indifference.

See also Blank Slate, Nurture over Nature, Misery Builds Character, More Than Mind Control, Rousseau Was Right, Stockholm Syndrome, Dissonant Serenity, Then Let Me Be Evil, Freudian Excuse Denial and Too Broken to Break. A sister trope to Seen It All.


Compare and contrast with Weirdness Censor and Perception Filter, where the mental impression of horror is diminished, but the emotional reaction to said horror is unchanged.

Example subpages

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: While the Abyssal sourcebook is full of horrifying things, The Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils takes the cake for invoking this trope. She raises children to be her Abyssal Exalted. She teach them "the pointlessness of existence and hatred for the cruelty of life". The place she raises them, the Mound of Forsaken Seeds? No normal animal nor Fair Folk will get near it without magical compulsion.
  • In Paranoia, this happens with some citizens of Alpha Complex. Work as a janitor mopping up in the Internal Security Information-Extraction chambers, and after a while you've seen it all.
  • The 'Jaded' Trait in Dark Heresy indicates a character whose life has been so dark and crappy that they've become entirely immune to fear and Sanity Meter hits from 'mundane' horrors that have a natural explanation (such as, say, a very grisly murder scene; seeing an Eldritch Abomination in the flesh will still hurt your psyche). There are several character backgrounds that makes your character start with this trait, from being Mind-Wiped to hailing from Volg Hive, a place so violent, dirty and low-down that it basically serves as a garbage pit you throw people too savage to live in a Wretched Hive in.
    • By extension, Deathwatch invokes this trope due to the player characters being Imperial Space Marines. Part of their training and indoctrination is being conditioned to horror (the Emperor specifically said "and they shall know no fear"), so that even though the mechanic still exists, the Game Master is encouraged to only make the players check sanity for the highest levels of cosmic horrors.
  • In GURPS, having the Callous disadvantage along with the Unfazeable or multiple levels of the Fearlessness advantage, and no disadvantages like Pacifism, Phobia or Squeamish, makes a character fitting this trope.
  • Call of Cthulhu player characters, non-player characters, friends, and foes all alike can, and probably will, become this trope if they didn't already start like this for one reason or another.
    • When integrating antagonists and mechanics from the d20 version of the game into the more common Dungeons & Dragons or D20 modern settings, the manual recommends either dramatically reducing or leaving out the sanity-erosion mechanic entirely because of this trope. Fantasy adventurers accept weird things beyond their comprehension all the time because it's their job (literally their job for classes like clerics and warlocks).
  • Characters exposed to repeated and increasingly traumatic events in Unknown Armies will either become gibbering messes, or completely immune to the traumatic stimuli. The latter is noted as being just as much a form of insanity as the former.
  • Almost the entire population of Amonkhet in Magic: The Gathering. Amonkhet is a Daylight Horror take on Fantasy Ancient Egypt where death is not just accepted, it's actively sought after in difficult trials, with the worthy supposedly going to a bountiful afterlife; since the God-Pharaoh is Nicol Bolas this is somewhat unlikely. Oashra Cultivator, for example, is a smiling gardener surrounded by flowers, who is casually talking about being "harvested". In Hour of Devastation, everyone gets a wake-up call as Bolas' agents and army essentially commit genocide.
    • Tarkir's Atarka Brood is outright stated to be this. Being a clan whose basically glorified waiters to a perpetually hungry and paranoid dragon should drive most people to despair, but they take it in stride.

    Visual Novels 
  • Shirou in Fate/stay night. It's hinted at in Fate route with how quickly he adapts to the situation and more or less stated outright at the beginning of UBW. Why did he stay calm when Shinji tried to melt everyone in the school? Because he's used to seeing corpses, which lets him tell them apart from people who are just injured! Isn't it obvious? To explain why he was used to seeing corpses at 18ish, as a child, he was at ground zero of a magical version of Hiroshima, and the trauma of the explosion meant his first memories were of walking past literally hundreds of burning, melting, screaming very-soon-to-be-corpses.
  • Ayumi comments on this in Corpse Party D2: Depths of Despair. After finding herself back in the cursed schoolhouse, she notes that she hardly feels anything when examining corpses anymore.
  • Due to being born underneath the guillotine and having been surrounded by death all her life due to her curse, Marie from Dies Irae sees nothing wrong with decapitating people left and right as it is as natural as breathing to her. Even at her own execution she saw nothing wrong with it and calmly let let herself be killed. And while she never quite loses this mindset, she at the very least starts to understand why people have a problem with it as she herself wants to save what is precious to her.
  • Throughout the course of Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira grows rather disturbingly accustomed to the spirits haunting him and threatening his life.
    Akira: Yeah, a bunch of weird things have happened. I almost died once, too.
    Rosé: And yet you seem pretty unfazed.
    Akira: Well, obviously, I didn't die.

    Web Animation 
  • Everything Is Broken: In part 8 LG Creepybloom shows up in Flippy's mirror again to scare him but Flippy just does not react or care after all the horrible things he went through.

    Real Life 
  • As a general rule, this can apply to anything from an abusive childhood to residents in a war-torn area dealing with bombings. Not accepting it in this manner would likely lead to some serious Sanity Slippage.
  • In the US, many people seem to have been desensitized to mass shootings, enough that every time one happens, The Onion can repost the article "'No Way To Prevent This', Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" and only have to change the location and number of victims.
  • Professionals as well rely on this as a coping mechanism. Soldiers, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, you name it, often fall into this either by jokingly evoking it to poke fun at crappy taskings or exercises, or seriously relying on it to deal with actual horrors they experience.
  • From the 17th to the 19th century, sailors that were Press-Ganged or willingly accepted a position aboard a slave ship out of sheer need, reported that on their first voyage to Africa, they felt incredibly guilty over the fact that they were being forced to chain up and cram as many horrified people into the cargo hold as possible, watch as the higher ranking crewmen beat the captives mercilessly or raped them. However, as the voyage went on, the new sailors began to accept that capturing people and selling them as cattle was just another part of the job, and didn't even flinch when the captives were severely flogged by their superiors, or when they did it themselves. Some even joined in future enslaving expeditions.
  • There are quite a few horrific things that our ancestors did that most people at the time just accepted as "the way it is" (be it slavery, public executions, burning people at the stake, etc). Thankfully many of those things have either been abolished or at least made morally unacceptable enough that they are illegal in most places. It's also highly likely that our descendants will regard some things we consider normal and acceptable with the same degree of visceral horror most people today have for things like slavery or burning people alive.
  • Indeed, this happens to people even with a charmed life. Due to a lack of experience and emotional regulation, something mundane can feel as if it is the worst thing that ever happened to a person. It’s only when they grow up that they accept these day to day inconveniences.


Video Example(s):


How to Deal With Cannibalism

Bart and Lisa tell Marge that kids are being cooked in the school cafeteria. She tells them she can't be fighting all their battles anymore, and simply tells them to look them straight in the eye and say "Don't eat me".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConditionedToAcceptHorror

Media sources: