Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What, me crazy?

After laughing in recognition at the truth of the statement “we are all innocent by reason of insanity,” most people get quiet. They’re thinking, “What me, crazy? I don’t think so! I’m not in need of a straightjacket. I’m not a raving loony. Maybe I’ve got some problems but I’m not insane, I’m a normal, healthy-minded, rational human being.”

As we wrote in the earlier post, What do we Mean by Insane?, no one sees reality accurately. All we see is a mind-generated virtual reality. Most of us unquestioningly believe our virtual reality is actual reality. In other words, we are deluded, and delusional is just another word for insane.

Webster’s New Universal, Unabridged Dictionary defines “delusion” as: a fixed, false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact.

It’s easy to think of some common delusions. For example, how many of us have looked at ourselves in the mirror and been oblivious to the weight we’ve gained, seeing instead the thinner self of years past? Then when we put on a pair of pants we haven’t worn for awhile, feeling surprise when they’re tight?

Friday, May 18, 2012

What do we mean by insane?

In a word: delusional.

Most of us think we perceive reality directly and accurately. That is not true at all. Our senses take in information from our environment, and that information is filtered through our beliefs and assumptions before we become aware of it. Our reality is generated in our minds. Each of us creates our own individual reality.

Psychologists put it this way: we build models of reality in our minds, called “mental maps,” which we use to navigate the world. We do not see actual reality, whatever that might be. We see only our mental models of reality.

No one knows what reality actually is, but we all think and behave as if we do. We erroneously conclude that our model of reality is reality.

What do we call someone who confuses their model of reality with reality itself? We call them delusional, or insane.

The idea that we live in a mind-generated reality seems strange because it feels like we experience the physical world directly and perceive it accurately. For example, when I want to pick my shoe up off the floor I can accurately locate the physical object—the shoe is here on the floor, not over there on the dining table—and I can precisely move my hand to its location and pick it up. Surely this means I’m experiencing the physical world the way it is!

Optical illusions are amusing and shocking because they let us see that we do not perceive physical reality accurately.