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A path to sanity

Posted by Simon Parke, 07 October 2020, 9.59am

Everyone thinks they’re sane; and while no one is, some are closer than others.

I have known sanity occasionally, like a light on a distant hill; but then wandered away - for sanity is a dynamic notion, a continuum we move up and down. I might be saner in the morning, less sane in the afternoon.

Stress tends to make us less sane.

So what is sanity?

To be sane is to possess a mental map that corresponds with reality; and such possession is rare.

As someone helpfully observed, ‘our map is not the territory’ and this is the problem.

Our mental map is inaccurate. It doesn’t describe what is around us or within. Yet we believe our map, we believe its guidance, we follow its promptings every day.

This takes us down unhelpful paths towards loneliness, frustration, anxiety, confusion, depression or fear. Our map is telling of us of things that aren’t actually there; and not mentioning other things that are.

No wonder we struggle.

We blame the territory, of course, ‘it’s the territory to blame for my unhappiness’; we never think to question our own mental map.

Once we realise our map is grossly inaccurate - an awakening in itself - we can choose to rely on it less and look more at the territory before us.

What is it saying? I forget the map and look at what’s in front of me. What is the territory saying,  the situations I am creating? Is there a better path?

Or to put it more forcefully, ‘Wake up!’

Or again, ‘Look, weep, live!’

It is a brave thing to do, to question our map’s directions; a huge act of trust, the first act of consciousness and quite heroic.

After all, we have trusted this map implicitly for years. It’s all we know; it’s been reacting for us every step of the way. And will carry on trying.

Though here - in this questioning, in this letting go, in this putting down and looking up - is the path to sanity; the path to a bigger map, a truer map, one that corresponds with reality.

And the path there is kind.

Sanity is hard, yes; but insanity is harder.

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