Last week I asked readers what they’d like to hear about. The overwhelming choice: Understanding insanity – where it comes from and how to circumvent it.
So what is insanity? We’re not talking the textbook definition here –
the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness
Although sometimes it may feel like this!
We’re using the term more colloquially. Perhaps this very commonly quoted definition gets closer:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
This captures the idea of being stuck in behavior patterns that helped us survive to this point but no longer serve us. Like:
- Choosing the same destructive relationships over and over because we are looking for love outside ourselves (aka, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”)
- Finding ourselves – yet again! – in a job with an unreasonable, demanding boss who triggers our anti-authority complex (“I Hate My Boss Because My Boss Hates Me”)
- Compulsively using a substance, like alcohol – or a behavior, like eating or exercising – to escape the pain of life (“I’m an Addict Because It’s the Best Answer I’ve Found So Far”)
Why do we keep doing the same things over and over again? Because they seem to work, at least for a time. We find the next boyfriend/girlfriend and experience bliss – for a little while. We blow up at the boss and feel good that we stood up for ourselves, but lose our job. We feel happy and carefree from the effects of our addiction, until we crash.
We keep doing these things because they seem to work or they used to, and because we don’t yet have another way forward. We need to try something different to get different results.
How do we do that?
We work on changing how we think, feel, and act.
Try this definition of insanity on for size:
Insanity is getting stuck in unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors rather than processing them, integrating new responses, and moving on to healthier patterns.
Hanging on to negativity grinds it deeper into our consciousness. To turn insanity into serenity, we must dig out negative and unhealthy compulsions – thoughts, feelings, behavior – instead of letting it take root.
So refuse to get stuck!
Follow these steps:
- Recognize our “insane” destructive patterns that keep us stuck
- Process the feelings behind those patterns
- Learn and practice new healthier behaviors
- Acknowledge mistakes – and successes
- Integrate results and use them to improve responses the next time
To get serenity, admit your insanity. Face it, give it voice, understand it. Brainstorm ways to counteract it, begin practicing them.
Let’s apply this to the example of “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”
- Become aware that every boy/girlfriend you’ve had is a version of him/herself – always the same type
- Look at what’s behind it – feeling unloved and believing love has to come from outside oneself
- Practice healthier behaviors – focus on self-care basics to start, move on from there
- Become more aware of your dating habits – notice when you make the same mistakes, but forgive them; acknowledge small improvements, such as ending the relationship sooner
- Continue practicing self-care – you’ll find you’re less and less tempted to fall into the same old relationship patterns
Then just keep repeating steps 3, 4, and 5.
So you still want serenity? Go ahead and dive into the insanity.
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