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Conditioned to Accept Horror

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When you have a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl as a daughter, nothing surprises you anymore.
"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.

Sub-Trope to Failed Attempt at Scaring. See also Blank Slate, Nurture over Nature, Misery Builds Character, More than Mind Control, Rousseau Was Right, Dissonant Serenity, Then Let Me Be Evil, Freudian Excuse Denial, Too Broken to Break, and But for Me, It Was Tuesday. 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:

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    Films — Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in Inside Out: Fear watches Riley's Anxiety Dreams, but since his job is to be anxious 24/7, he's not really fazed.
    Fear: Let me guess: we're not wearing pants.
    Character in dream: Look, she's not wearing pants! [laughter]
    Fear: (punches air lazily) Called it.
  • Toy Story: Sid's toys are used to being maimed, blown up, or tortured during his "games", so much that they've learned how to repair newbies that have suffered serious damage. The Baby Face is the first to be hopeful when Woody says there's a chance to rescue Buzz and help Sid turn over a new leaf.

  • The Magnus Archives several of the statement givers across the series that have to put up with horror for an extended period of time end up like this, most notably Joshua Gillsepie from "Do Not Open". Joshua finds himself having to store an ominous coffin covered with a padlock and a warning to never open it in his home. At first he is of course disturbed by it, especially when he starts trying to open it in his sleep. But once he takes the necessary safety precautions and gets music to drown out the occasional moaning he quickly gets used to its presence, at one point even resting his drink on it. As Joshua himself says: "fear can be as routine as hunger"

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
    • The d20 version of the game is fully compatible with 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, and indeed the book has an appendix on how to integrate the game mechanics and Cthulhu Mythos into D&D. But even if the GM/DM decides to run a Dark Fantasy campaign with a Sanity Meter, the game developers recommend giving D&D adventurers a "Sanity resistance" score that grows as they level up, so they're not at risk from going mad upon seeing an orc. After all, D&D heroes live in a world where even low-level magic can animate corpses into a mockery of life, nefarious fiends scheme to possess mortal souls or bodies, and brain-eating aberrations lurk in the depths of the Underdark — and in the cases of clerics, paladins, warlocks, etc., contending with dark powers or trafficking with the occult is literally in their job description.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Almost the entire population of Amonkhet in Magic: The Gathering. Amonkhet is a horror take on Fantasy Ancient Egypt where death is not just accepted, but 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • This is a common experience for survivors of childhood abuse and other recurrently traumatic childhoods.


Video Example(s):


Barbara & Harleen in Gotham

Growing up in the polluted, crime-infested Gotham City has made Barbara and Harleen used to seeing all the crime and trash everywhere. To them, it's home sweet home all the same.

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Main / ConditionedToAcceptHorror

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