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What is "Sanity"?

The definition of a small word that can keep us sane...or drive us crazy.

We all know the story: a person is successful, gets along well with others, looks fine to everyone around them, get respect from their peers, works great at their jobs . . . but a little beneath the surface, maybe things are actually a little less than perfect...

Part of our daring, dapper, and daunting mission at LiveReal - specifically, here in the Psychology Arena - is "the fight for sanity."

Which brings up the question - what, exactly, is this "sanity" we're fighting for? And what is the opposite - "insanity"?

So, we went to the professionals.

After all, psychology is in the "sanity" business, and the concept of sanity is the ground and basis for the entire discipline, so the professionals must have a really good handle on what they're working for . . . right?

At any rate, if living the good life has something to do with sanity, we figured it was time to dive in and look under every rock, and see what we could find...

What is "Sanity"? The LiveReal Quiz (can you take it?)

(multiple choice)

A) Something that just about every one of us thinks we have.

B) Something other people seem to have, until you really get to know them.

C) Webster's Dictionary: "sanity: soundness of mind"; "sane: mentally sound and healthy; also sensible, rational."

D) Something we instinctively, already understand, we just have a hard time trying to spell it out. "We know it when we see it." (Even though we all "see" different things.)

E) Something we think we instinctively, automatically understand, but when we do try to spell it out, we realize we might not understand quite as much as we think.

F) It's something we often see the lack of, clearly, in others, but rarely in ourselves.

G) It's defined by "fitting in," "herd behavior", or simply conforming to the behavior of whatever people you find yourself with. (e.g. a "sane" person living in a cannibal community, is a cannibal; a "sane" person living in Germany in mid-1900's Germany followed Hitler, etc.)

H) "What passes for sanity is an agreed-on form of insanity, which is an attempt to make life work out by legislating ideals and imposing values in our minds and selling them to other minds."

I) The DSM-IV, the "Bible" of mainstream psychology:
(take a deep breath)
". . . a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event, for example, the death of a loved one. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered (by who?) a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual." It's the opposite of that. All clear now?

J) Something that most people have, with a few exceptions.

K) Something that very few people actually have.

L) It's thinking and acting the way that those in positions of power want you to think and act.

M) It's developmental: the ability to successfully master the challenges of growth and psychological development that life constantly throws at you, constantly, from the moment of birth on.

N) It's whatever your local psychologist, based on their personal opinion, says it is.

O) It's whatever the most influential psychologist says it is, based on their either their personal opinion or valid scientific research.

P) Something that is strengthened through entering therapy.

Q) Something that is lost through entering therapy.

R) It's not making waves (also known as "not rocking the boat"; see also "not questioning the system set up by those in authority")

S) It is nothing more than whatever cultural biases define it to be.

T) It is something timeless and independent of whatever is happening with culture, trends, and social fashion.

U) It's defined by the ability to love.

V) It's the ability to direct your mind, emotions, actions and imagination towards a positive end.

W) It's something that can only be defined "subjectively," although certain "objective" criteria are helpful in figuring out as well.

X) It's a product of knowing how to deal with stress.

Y) It's something spiritual, such as the measure of one's understanding of and relationship to "God" (e.g. "If you do not serve God, then the mind will not serve you." (Leonard Jacobson))

Z) It's a quality of character, like courage or cowardice, that becomes evident by certain signs, signals, and gestures; but because it is a word and concept, it can act as a signpost to this "quality," but can never be more than that.

AA) It's a prerequisite to genuine success and happiness.

BB) It's something that is strengthened or weakened according to how you live your life.

CC) It's something that's completely relative: you're probably more sane than some of the people you know, and less sane than some.

DD) It's something that is not relative.

EE) It's something that is common, easy to achieve, and requires no deliberate effort.

FF) It's something that is rare, difficult to achieve, and requires deliberate effort.

GG) It's something with a direct, parallel relationship to awareness, and an inverse relationship to unconsciousness.

HH) It's acting in a way that completely conforms to people's expectations and desires, so they have no reason to object to you.

II) It's a certain state of consciousness that is rooted in the truth.

JJ) It's knowing who you really are and being true to yourself, no matter what anyone else does.

KK) It's a state of being completely awake.

LL) It's what's left after you back away from enough insanity.

MM) It's understanding and being in touch with reality.

NN) All of the above

OO) None of the above

PP) Some of the above.

Other: ____________________________.

Your Answer: ________.

(Please note:
This is a quiz that, whether you're aware of it or not,
you are, in a way, kind of already taking;
You will probably be graded, but may not be;
we're not sure when, how, or if you'll ever find out what your grade;
and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers,
but then again, we may be wrong.)

Appendix I: More Questions

So, what's the answer here? Who has the answer?

Psychology has largely abandoned the issue, and left it to the lawyers. "Insane" is now merely a legal term that gets used as a chess piece in courts. But it lives on in popular culture, and why? Because there's a real need for it.

So we seem to on on own on this.

With that said, let's dig deeper.

So, who is really "sane"?

Anybody? ...Anybody?

This is one of those words that everyone has an opinion, and a "sense" about...but as soon as you try to pin it down, it becomes elusive.

The actual dictionary won't help us either. What is "sanity"? "The state of being "sane."

Thanks. A. Lot.

What is "sane"? "Free from mental derangement; having a sound, healthy mind; having or showing reason, sound judgment, or good sense."

And what is "mental derangement, a sound, healthy mind, reason, sound judgment, good sense"?

Spoiler alert: it all eventually lead us back to, well, "sane."

Use one undefined word to define another undefined word. Eventually, it all becomes circular.

Words fail.

But we have to work with words regardless. So, with that goose-chase now under our belts...

Three suggestions we'll put out there.

First of all, not a definition, but a "tell" or a sign:

"Someone who is sane is willing and able to honestly question their assumptions."

Briefly: if someone believes he is Elvis reincarnated, his behavior from that point on might be completely, fully, 100% logical.

But is he willing to take a clear and sober look at that initial assumption (the assumption that he's Elvis?)

Our idea here is that a mark of sanity is the willingness to do that. And once you stop being willing to do that, well, you could be getting closer to buying a white pantsuit.

Secondly, formal definitions aside, there's the basic idea of "mental clarity and emotional strength," which we touch on here.

Finally, there's this idea: "sane" means "being in touch with Reality."

Controversial, we know, but it's a working hypothesis until we find one that's better.

So, what is "Reality"? Or "Truth"?

Well, OK: so we start with a simple question, one at the basis of much of psychology and self-help and so on, and we dig deeper into it, and suddenly we find ourselves asking what "reality" is, and what "truth" is.

In other words, you wind up here, in The Spiritual Arena.

This is what happens when you define being "sane" as being in touch with Reality...whatever "Reality" is.

So to really unlock the "sanity" question, in our opinion, you need to unlock the "Reality" question.

But again, this is just our working hypothesis for now. Plenty of folks would disagree with it, but if we find a better one, we'll let you know.

But there are still more questions to dig into.

What makes people lose their "sanity"? How can people stay sane? If someone is less than completely "sane," how do they find it? If someone is sane, how do they not go crazy? If you weren't sane, how would you know? If the people around you are not sane, what can you do about it? If life itself isn't sane, what's the best way to live it?

- these are some of the questions your trusty LiveReal Agents are doggedly pursuing.

In the meantime, check out some sanity-inducing exercises and other experiments which can also be known to provide a welcome dose of sanity in your life.

We'll keep you posted. Stay tuned.

If you liked this, check out:

The Psychology Arena: The Fight for Sanity

The Spiritual Arena: The Quest for Reality

What's the Problem? A Guide to Your "Issues"?

What is "Happiness"?

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