Einstein famously defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I like this definition, but I don’t think it captures the full essence of insanity.
Instead, I prefer(propose) the following definition….
Insanity is habitually and knowingly inflicting harm upon yourself.
For the sake of simplicity I tried to make that definition succinct, but let me elaborate. Let’s break it down.
To start off, I actually want to start at the end of my definition with “inflicting harm upon yourself”
At the root of insanity there is self harm. Doing something to yourself that is not in your own best interests. Self sabotage.
This can be outright harm like being violent with yourself in some way, but I think (for most of us) self harm is usually a lot more subtle.
Self harm can be an overly active inner critic. Self harm can be bad habits like eating a bad diet, not exercising, not socializing, drinking and using drugs. Self harm can be anger, jealousy, hatred, and resentment.
In my opinion, none of these habits in and of themselves are all that bad. There’s nothing wrong with eating a cheat meal every now and then or having the night out where you get drunk with friends. Nothing wrong with getting pissed off at someone every now and then either!
It’s when these become HABITUAL that it becomes a problem. When they happen on consecutive days. When it is a part of your routine.
Then the worst part of all – now that it’s a part of your habit, you KNOWINGLY indulge in the activity EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW IT’S BAD FOR YOU!!!
This is the part that is the kicker to me – doing something despite knowing that what you are doing is going to hurt you.
Part of it is masochistic perhaps even sadistic – but hey, I’m not here to judge, only to identify the root habit and ask myself what I can do to change.
To me, this is insane. Doing something that you know is bad for you, indulging in it knowing that it is bad for you, and doing it routinely. The triple threat – You know it causes harm and you do it anyway – routinely.
To me the easiest examples of insanity are people who are smokers, alcoholics, and over-eaters.
You know that the activity (smoking or eating) is the root of your health problems, but you do it anyway.
In my opinion, if you’re addicted to cigarettes, you’re insane. You’re knowingly poisoning yourself and doing it every day. It’s like you’re TRYING to kill yourself.
If you’re obese as a cause of eating badly every single day, you’re insane. Regardless of how you arrived at your current state, in order to get to a healthy state again you will need to eat more vegetables and fruits and get some movement in your system.
If you knowingly continue to eat like shit and avoid exercise in spite of this information? Yep, you’re insane!
On the note of avoidance, let’s throw that in here too. Intentionally choosing to NOT do something, and knowing that your INACTIVITY is the cause of your suffering, and continuing to remain inactive is just as bad.
Avoidance is a choice. A choice that causes you harm (although we do it to try and protect ourselves). If you continually choose avoidance, and know you’re choosing avoidance – yep, that’s insane!
All in all, insanity is any habit whereby you are consciously choosing to inflict harm upon yourself (or others!)
That’s another important point here too – OTHER PEOPLE!!!
Insanity is also when we infect other people with our suffering. Project our insanity on to them and force them to take part in it.
Our behavior with others has the potential to either make us happier or contribute to our sadness. So if we piss someone off, we won’t feel good afterwards knowing the relationship is unstable. If someone pisses you off and you don’t control yourself well, that doesn’t feel good either.
If we treat people in a way that leaves us feeling bad/negative/sad/angry etc, we’re contributing to our own sadness. If we knowingly do this and make a habit of it? You guessed it, INSANE!!!
So if you knowingly and routinely piss people off, you’re insane. If you knowingly and routinely hurt others and make people feel bad about themselves? You’re insane. If you knowingly and routinely do things that have a negative consequence to the people around you, you’re insane!
Don’t get me wrong either – addiction is a mental illness. That’s what I believe this is as well – addiction. Addiction to behaviors, to ways of thinking, to substances. Addiction is insanity.
But we already know that addiction starts in the mind. It’s curable. We can work on it through implementing better habits. We can cure our own insanity.
The point is, if you have the awareness to know that you fit into this definition of insanity, if you’re able to admit to yourself that you’re insane, you have all the tools you need to fight (and beat) it!
The second you start WORKING, start taking ACTION to fight that insanity, you’re no longer insane. You’re immediately cured!
The cure to insanity is intentional action.
All of our decisions should be things to improve our lives in the long run. Build a better life. We want to break our habits of self sabotage.
Break the cycle of insanity. Stop doing the things that you know are causing yourself harm. Create limits for yourself. Get an accountabilibuddy. Do the things you know you should be doing, but aren’t.
It’s not rocket science either – there’s no grand “HOW” or method or system that you need. It’s a decision. A choice.
“I will not knowingly and routinely inflict harm upon myself.”
You know the choices that are best for you. You know when you’re being insane. Break habits and break free…this was my definition of insanity 😉