What do we mean by sanity?

Sanity seems to be, as far as I can tell, the word we use for “normal”. It is the descriptor attached to modes of perceiving and behaving that do not stray outside of the boundaries of our cultural, familial, social and psychological norms. So sanity, then, is predictability. If we can predict roughly what a person will do next, we say that it sensible, it is sane. That man is crossing the street after looking both ways, he must be sane. That woman is reading a book the right way up, she must be sane. That person is smacking their child for yelling, they must be sane.

Now that last one should have twigged you to an important fact about sanity: the definition changes from person to person. What is normal to one may not be normal to another.

So really, our concept of sanity is a mess, propped up mostly by force. If we are deemed insane, we are forcibly removed from the environment sane people inhabit and we are taken to an “insane asylum”, where presumably by being surrounded by procedures and chemicals that dull the nerves and, of course, other “insane” people, we will immediately come to our senses and become “sane” once more.

To most psychiatrists, especially Freudian analysts, ego-death is considered a regression and therefore a form of neurosis. They see the common, day to day neurolinguistic functioning of the adult as the baseline of sanity, from which deviations must be treated with suspicion.

Likewise with business. The experience of ego-death is a deviation from the baseline of productivity and external focusing of the nervous system, and therefore it is “insanity” in the context of business.

Government, who rely on “sanity” for their control and power as much as psychology and business, also view ego-death as madness, as evidenced by the enormous propaganda campaigns against altered states of consciousness over the past fifty or so years. So by now I’m sure you’re starting to see that insanity in this context we have placed it, is almost entirely meaningless. It helps us understand nothing about the human condition and instead grants us the ability to marginalise. So what then can we say about sanity and insanity if we want to make them into useful concepts with descriptive validity?

Let’s try a new approach. Sanity can be defined as:

“That state of feeling and thinking which is most conducive to the fulfilment of the organisms authentic needs and desires, free from contradiction, conflict and confusion, that which allows the organism to act with vital freedom and without harm to itself or other.”

And perhaps we can see insanity as what impairs us from reaching that state, which we could also call basic nature, enlightenment, or simply being in the moment.

Let’s try a few more to see if we can outline sanity by taking passes at it.

Sanity is relaxation. Sanity is a state of non-pushing. Sanity is non-resistance to suffering. Sanity is seeing without naming. Sanity is awareness.

We can then see insanity as what hinders us from reaching these states, or the opposite of these states.

So, could we not say, if we agree on the above (and if we don’t please, let’s go into this together and find out), that ego-death is one of the purest forms of sanity, as it allows “…that state of feeling and thinking which is most conducive to the fulfillment of the organisms authentic needs and desires, free from contradiction, conflict and confusion, that which allows the organism to act with vital freedom and without harm to itself or other.”

What do you think?



26 thoughts on “What do we mean by sanity?

  1. I agree with most of this. Some good points of discussion I think are where one would draw the line to ‘hurting others’ on their quest to happiness. As everyone has a different idea of what is ‘hurt’ and also it may be difficult to be aware if your success may be at the expense of someones success. An example would be getting a job position when the other person needed it more. There are so many variables that one can’t be sure in every situation if he is making the right decision which would positively affect society. Contradiction, conflict and confusion seem necessary to an extent as a lot of growth and self discovery can come about from contradiction and confusion. A complete absence of these would mean that one may not solve problems and would therefore not grow and remain stagnant. In my experience new understanding and awareness arises from confusion and confliction. The other extreme side of the spectrum which would be constant confusion may be counter productive so it may be ideal to seek a balanced middle ground. Confusion is unpleasant and is therefore a main motivational factor for people to seek education.

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    1. Hi Mark, Hope you’re good!
      Exactly my thoughts as I went through it.
      And my experiences with the ‘insane’ (I spent a month in a mental asylum for my small research to experience people), they don’t always fall into the category of being confused. They’re usually completely confident about what they are doing, even though they’re clearly hesitating by their hand shaking while they are writing down in an unintelligible language and have scribbled the last few letters out a number of times. They often repeat themselves as though they haven’t been heard and what they’re saying should be eliciting a response different to what they’re getting.
      99% of the people I met in the mental ward were not insane, I could completely relate to them and they had all just been mistreated by society (thrown in because they weren’t understood) or were recovering from a breakdown / flip out. But I remember one guy, I’ve been saying they, but I’ve only seen it once, I just couldn’t understand his perspective, I didn’t know enough about it however, but it certainly seemed like synchronicities had completely thrown him around.
      He took the idea “I am Jesus Christ” that he had learned through synchronicity, a mode for the universe or the subconscious to communicate directly to the central awareness and it alone, way too literally. I had only just learnt the same thing, but seeing his reaction to it taught me quickly, that it’s something you can’t communicate to those who haven’t experienced it. Unfortunately he missed the remainder of the message that “I am you” also, thus not only he was Christ but so was I. It brought a big smile to my face when he introduced himself to me, looking distraught and exhausted from trying to explain it to people, as Jesus and I said “hi, me too.” “No you don’t get it I’m Jesus.” “Yeah, I believe you. But so is everybody else. They just haven’t heard the message yet.” No response and walks off.
      In some cases a mathematician would sound insane to a model and a model sound insane to a mathematician. In most every case it comes from a lack of the ability to communicate, that is a lack of experience, understanding, perspective and a whole host of other things. Seeing and hearing spirits, telepathically communicating with aliens, noticing patterns in the stars and in reality, believing in an infinite God, despising black or gay or any other word for an abstract subset of people based off of consistent negative experiences, all sound insane to someone who is unfamiliar with those ideas.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Way interesting report, thoughtful reflections. Your journey thru the institution, as to experience of the mental health care industry and people- sounds like a difficult passage, nothing pleasant. An ordeal if anything. Yet despite hardship and whatever price paid (‘sadder but wiser’?), I get a sense your experience led you to an enriched understanding. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am doing great Aishwariya dear. 🙂 I must tell you, You’re articles are so interesting. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful.

        I’ll suggest you to start writing book 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Impression I’ve gotten, ‘insanity’ is nowadays, not so much a term from psychiatric diagnosis as – a legal one – for the psychological state of a defendant, to plead ‘not guilty,’ supported by whatever ‘expert witness’ testimony. But – “insanity in this context we have placed, is almost entirely meaningless.” I hope you don’t mean to imply there’s no such thing as mental health (sanity, if one might) as distinct from – mental illness – whether called ‘insanity’ unofficially (per pop psych), or in legal-official use. I hope the question as posed, isn’t meant to suggest or imply – doesn’t mean to propose – that there’s no valid distinction between mental health (sanity if one might call it thus) – and mental illness or pathology (whether called ‘insanity’ or not, in whatever context). Is that the case?
    Is any concept of mental health whatsoever (‘sanity’), vs mental unhealthy, simply a mix-up, no matter how understood or construed ?
    Wm James (VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE) is among the most competent exploratory discussions, distinguishing ‘healthy mindedness’ and ‘the sick soul’ – in reference to visionary and transcendent mental states, mystical experiences etc. The discourse of psychedelia has often referenced James’ work – albeit without good grasp of his findings overall (on impression).

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    1. No I don’t mean to imply that there is no mental illness or insanity, just that much of what we consider to be insanity is simply difference. I find that it’s useful to talk of insanity when a persons mental state is causing them harm or distress, as opposed to speaking of it when a person has some perception of feeling that is abnormal by societal and cultural standards. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough, thanks. And now that I better understand, I think your point has legs and solid ground under, to stand on. At the outer limits of human experience, there are things that might seem ‘crazy’ – as a matter of little twists in reality itself, rather than some mental problem.

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  3. I’ve always considered retention of the ego an insanity in itself, a death in itself. It drives a person to make the most illogical choices in the name of progress, which over time is regressionary.
    To be alive, awake, able to serve the best interests of yourself, those around you, and the environment at large would be sanity in my book. However, to do this, one must release the societal norms, which have elements of insanity within them, and find the true, universally connected higher self and Source that considers all at once, and repeatedly comes up with the right and best decision across the spectrum.

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    1. Right.! To me ego-loss is losing your sense of self, your memories, you cease to be YOU and instead you just are.
      with insanity i think more along the lines of things like severe mental illness though as far as i know the term insanity is a legal term that means the person does not have the ability to determine right from wrong.
      Although maybe insane means you are so sane that you are IN it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very insightful. Perhaps what society would call IN-sane could be considered insanity as you’ve given up your soul and true link to the universe in favour of being an automaton walking to the beat of your programming.
        Wouldn’t you know it: the insane norm will call those that step out of it by the terms they live in daily.
        The clinically insane would then only by hyper reality examples of the regular societal insane norm.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The idea of normalcy is indeed very problematic. What is “normal” is socially constructed and even a mild deviation from it is termed as a disability and is stigmatized. Who decides what is “normal” and why do they get to decide what level of IQ/EQ is “normal”? Difference is always marginalized and cognitive difference even more so. Most people would have no problem declaring that they are physically unwell and under medication but feel ashamed to reveal that they are seeing a psychotherapist. This is due to the stigma that is attached with cognitive difference or insanity. Thought provoking article!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. By that definition (That state of feeling and thinking which is most conducive to the fulfilment of the organisms authentic needs and desires…), I guess I’m insane. 😀

    Nice write up on insanity. What is ‘normal’ normally is a very mundane, boring, economic pragmatism. No wonder insanity is far more interesting. All creative people are insane and hats off to them for managing to evade the loony bin.

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  6. It’s all relative Aishwariya. What’s sane for me may be crazy for twenty others. The point is if we believe in it with heart.

    Great post. Admire your expressive passages.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s all relative Aishwariya. What’s sane for me may be crazy for twenty others. The point is if we believe in it with heart.

    Great post. Admire your expressive passages.

    Liked by 1 person

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