Reality or Insanity

Some thoughts on perceiving things as they really are and trying to stay sane in an increasingly crazy world.

I have always considered insanity as being about a disconnect between individual perception and actual reality. The extreme of this is psychotics who have hallucinations and delusions – they see things that are not really there and talk to voices coming from no one, or insist something or someone is something other than what they really are. My husband’s traumatic brain injury is sometime exhibited in frantic searching for lost items that we do not actually own. I have at times myself, especially in dealing with alcoholics or addicts, felt a little crazy because my senses and my brain were telling me one thing while the addict/alcoholic was insisting something else was real – I didn’t really smell what I smelled, slurred speech was my ears fooling me, this was not what it appeared to be. When the choice is between believing a lie that someone you love and trust is telling you or trusting in your own perceptions, sometimes it is preferable to feel crazy.

We humans rely largely upon our senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste – to make determinations about whether something is real or not. Even then we can be fooled by things like the illusions of a magic act or prevalent virtual reality. Add to that the many conflicting messages we hear about current events. It used to be that we could trust that the majority of people accepted and presented reality as reality – there was a kind of common consensus of reality. But now things have become blurred and conflicted. Reality is no longer based on sensory or even scientifically verifiable observations, but more on feelings and ideology. It is no longer a constant we can count on, but is relative and variable, dependent upon prevailing popular opinion or even individual personal choices. Things which were obviously “real” years ago are no longer considered real, but have been replaced by new reality. All this leads to the questions: Are we really perceiving “things as they really are”? Or are we as a society going insane?

I recently saw a YouTube Video where an obvious and not very tall white male interviewed University students and presented himself as female, Asian, and considerably taller than he actually was. It was baffling to me that none of these students would question or challenge his presentation of distorted reality. They all chose to be “politically correct” and agreed with him as if it would have been totally inappropriate or offensive to point out the obvious reality of the situation. Maybe they saw him as “insane” and were just being polite and non-confrontational. Maybe they were actually “insane” according to my definition because they trusted the lies of a total stranger rather than their own sensory perception. Is this what “acceptance and tolerance” have done to our society? We must now accept anyone’s statement or perception of their identity as “real” even when it is obviously not.

My husband worked for many years with psychotic people and he learned early on that it was pointless to argue with them or insist that what was real was real. This was not done out of political correctness or even a desire to make them feel good about themselves. It was simply because they were out of touch with reality and nothing anyone could say would change that. It is one thing to tolerate craziness to avoid conflict and totally another to actually change our behavior to conform to another person’s distorted perception of reality – to act toward them as if their distorted perception of reality IS reality. This would be something like actually worshiping the psychotic who says he is Jesus, giving our money to the one who insists he owns the IRS, performing surgery to remove the transmitter implanted by the aliens, or letting someone claiming to be President of the United States move into the White House.

This video got me wondering if a whole generation of people have grown up learning not to rely on their own senses and perceptions to judge what is real? Rather they seem to go by the word of others, whether that be an individual stating their personal reality based on their “feelings”, or political or ideological views, or current popular trends. No wonder they eagerly accept any person’s self-reported identity even when it is inconsistent with their physical appearance and biological reality. No wonder that a young woman, feeling the movement of another human being with a beating heart inside her, would be convinced that this was merely a clump of cells which she can choose to remove and destroy as part of “her body”. No wonder they believe without question the impossible promises and outright lies of politicians. No wonder they accept as scientific fact only those specific facts that confirm the popular reality and discount other observations.

It is feeling like we are now living inside the story of the Emperor with his new clothes. The reality is that he IS naked – stark naked! Some of us can really see that. Yet, he and all of the “politically correct” are gushing over his beautiful new clothes. In order to maintain this illusion of reality and for those buying into the illusion to not feel crazy, they will put increasing pressure on those who see and speak of real reality. How long will the courageous continue to speak truth and represent reality when facing such pressure? How many of us will come to question our own perception and join in this craziness? Will we all eventually become insane, or at least feel crazy when it is really our world that has gone mad?

NOTE: For those who take offense at the inference that transgender persons are crazy, I refer you to the DSM-IV (Yes, this version is old, but it is what I own) which does list Gender Identity Disorder as a real mental disorder.

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