Sanity is a relative thing. Ask Paula Alquist.
Granted, very few of us (hopefully) encounter someone who is trying to Gaslight us, a now famous derivation that means to deliberately attempt to convince someone that they’re insane. And yet, what with everyone trying to get their own way, it seems a lot of folks out there won’t take it amiss if you begin to doubt what you know.
I think about it like this: we walk around with an idea of what the world is like inside our heads. It’s built of how we think and feel, what we believe, what our families believe. We’re all kind of existing in our own bubble worlds, a separate parallel universe for each person. Thus the world is teeming with alternate realities, some based on thought, many based on emotion. Every time we try to talk to each other, we’re communicating with an alien civilization.
I try to remember this when I have the “am I crazy or are they?” moments.
All it takes is one conversation where someone tells you what you did, usually months ago, that doesn’t match what you remember occurring. Or worse, ascribes motivations to you that you’re certain you never had. I’ve known some people who rewrote history on purpose, recasting events in a light more flattering to themselves. I’ve known others so passionately invested in their position that they come to believe what they want to be true. It’s understandable. I think that we all do this, to a greater or lesser extent.
Which is the crazy-making part.
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. I think this is what he was getting at. If you can’t scrutinize yourself and your life, there’s no way to know if what goes on in your own little universe has a reality that others can recognize or is simply a conglomeration of a fantasy of what you want to be true. There’s an old device in fairy tales where there’s a mirror that reflects how a person truly is. Usually only the “pure of heart” can face themselves in that mirror. I suspect this is something we have to do, every moment of every day: face ourselves in the mirror and see what’s there. If you flinch away, it’s because something has crept in. I don’t think I know what purity is anymore. Other people will be happy to chime in with what they believe is selfish or sinful or simply against the rules. Some of those people take those beliefs to insane extremes.
If you can face yourself in the mirror without flinching, I think that’s a good start.
Did anyone notice the lights dimming?