Why all people around you seem insane!

DBT-C, English, Supersensers / By Francheska Perepletchikova

All people around you seem insane because ALL people are insane, including you and me! It is just some people are insane and functional, while some people are insane and not functional. And most of us are somewhere in between. What is the definition of insanity – treating things that are not real as if they are real. A clinical example of this is a person who is experiencing an auditory hallucination and is convinced that he is really talking to someone else. A non-clinical example of this is thinking that “I am worthless because my boyfriend broke up with me and I will never be happy again.”

So, why all humans are insane. People are different from other creatures that inhabit this planet on multiple levels but for the purposes of this discussion I will just highlight one of the differences. Animals live in the real world. They can only think about and remember things that they saw, smelled, heard, and tasted. Humans possess an amazing power that animals do not have – the power of creation. People have imagination. They can imagine what is not real and make it real. Most animals can only make things that they were programed to build, such as nests and hives. Yes, there are some rare exceptions, such as an elephant who can draw, if given a canvas and paint, created by humans. But these are very rare exceptions, and their impact is miniscule. Humans can venture way beyond this! They created things like iPhones, TVs, the internet, artificial intelligence, cars, planes, spacecrafts, etc. Nature did not create any of that. Someone imagined these things and made them real. Such an amazing power! 

However, as we discussed in prior videos, everything has two sides, which is the second Law of Dialectics. There is another side to imagination. People can also create monsters in their heads and treat them as if they are real, which is a definition of insanity. Such as a little child being afraid of a monster under his bed. The monster is not real, but the fear is. Our suffering comes from imaginary monsters. And this suffering is real, even if monsters are imaginary. 

Currently, most people who live in civilized societies live better than kings and queens in the Middle Ages. They were ridden with diseases that we can now easily treat; they did not have adequate hygiene; they were infested with fleas; and did not even have toilets and a warm bed to sleep in! If you are listening to me right now, it means that you have luxuries unimaginable to ancient royalty!

Unfortunately, not all people on this planet have comfortable life, but even those who live in safe environments, have decent housing, good food, excellent medical care, a capacity to travel and see wonders of the world and access to entertainment beyond the wildest imagination even of those who lived just several decades ago, are suffering right now!    

Before we proceed, let’s define suffering. As we have already discussed, pain is a natural part of life. It consists of all the challenges that we face daily. We experience these challenges as painful because they bring uncertainty, and our sense of safety demands sameness and predictability. But the other side of pain is an opportunity to learn, as only through facing challenges we can gain mastery. Having to work hard, having to deal with problematic behaviors of our kids, fighting challenges with health, financial hardship, etc. – these are all examples of the pain of life. Suffering, on the other hand, is self-inflicted. It is caused by the monsters that we create in our minds and treat them as if they are real. 

How do we create monsters? Information from our senses enters our brain that makes sense of it by comparing it to what we already know. And since we all have different experiences, we interpret things differently, slightly differently or vastly differently. Of course, we can have shared meanings. If I show you iPhone, we will have a shared meaning of what this is. However, if I show it to an aboriginal person, who comes from a very different environment, life experiences and culture, he may have a very different view on what this may be. And if he shows me his tools, I will have no idea of what they are and how to use them. 

So, everything that enters our mental space goes through a process of interpretation. We see everything through our own idiosyncratic lenses. Subjectively events are neutral, as the same event can be interpreted differently by different people. If I say, “You are so stupid!” to five people, I will get five different reactions – one person may punch me, the second one may just call me “stupid” back, the third one may laugh at me, the fourth one may shrug their shoulders, and the fifth one may just walk away. This is very important to understand – events do not provoke us. Events are subjectively neutral because they are subjects to interpretation. Even the most objectively terrible events are still subjectively neutral. For example, war. Wars are objectively terrible events that bring death and devastation. Most people oppose wars and think of them as horrific events that need to be avoided. However, others may profit from warfare and welcome news about conflicts. 

To repeat the main premise – all events are subjectively neutral. We make an interpretation of an event and then we provoke ourselves with that interpretation. This means that we are indeed in control of the way we experience reality. Unfortunately, instead, we make other people responsible for our feelings, thoughts, and actions. But this is just another example of why we are all insane! Other people are not responsible for our reactions. We are the ones who are in control. We just keep giving this control away to others instead of claiming responsibility. It is indeed much harder to take responsibility for our reactions. It is much easier to blame others. However, once we point the finger at ourselves and assume control of the only thing that we can – ourselves, we can change our world! How? Simply by changing the way we think. Our feelings and actions are products of our thoughts. Colloquially it is called “I just changed my mind,” which means that I changed how I feel about the situation and my corresponding behavior.  This simple fact is the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

Since everything in our experience is subjective, our understanding of what is happening always contains two aspects – real and not real. Real is what is factual, and not real is what is subjective – the interpretations that we make by processing the information through our own lens. These interpretations may be close to facts or have nothing to do with facts.

Example: a child is crying about her friend completing more of a math homework packet than she was able to accomplish. What is real – her friend completed more pages than she did. This is a fact. What was not real – the meanings that the child derived from this event, such as “my friend completed more pages and, therefore, she is smarter than me, I am a bad student, I will fail math test, I am stupid, I will not graduate high school with high marks, I will not get into a good college.” The child was very upset not because of how many pages were respectively completed but because of all the interpretations that she made. She created monsters in her head that were not real, however, her suffering was real. This simple exercise of checking “real/not real” helped the child get unstuck, self-regulate, and let go. By the end of this simple “real/not real” exercise, she was just laughing at how much she allowed her monsters affect her mood, her ability to concentrate, and her ability to keep working on her math homework and prepare for the test. And this is exactly what they do! They keep us stuck, so that we will continue to suffer and keep feeding them! These imaginary monsters can only survive if we continue to feed them by continuing to suffer. In other words, we continue to code and re-code the same malware program, making it stronger and stronger.

Not all monsters are that easy to conquer, as in the example with the math homework. As we said, these monsters are malware programs in our heads that we keep entertaining by interpreting reality, based on these programs. Thus, we keep re-coding these malware programs multiple times per day for many years. Also, since they are illusions, arguing with them by presenting facts will not work. This is like trying to explain to a person who is having visual hallucinations that they are not real. These programs are illusions and illusions do not care about facts. So simple fact checking will not erase them. 

The most compelling example that I have of how this works comes from one of my current client. She is very beautiful by western society standards. However, she has a malware program that she is ugly. This program was written by her mother, who recognized from an early age that her daughter was very attractive and got concerned that she might use her looks to her advantage instead of working hard. So, with the best intentions in mind, to assure that her daughter would grow into a hard-working individual, the mother kept telling her child that she was ugly. My client is 21 now. She is not blind, and she is smart. The evidence of her being beautiful is literary staring her in the face every single day when she sees herself in the mirror. But this evidence is irrelevant to her “I am ugly” program. So, when other people tell her that she is gorgeous, that program makes her interpret compliments as “people are making fun of me.”

Other common examples of imaginary monsters:

1. Thoughts about our personal goodness/badness, such as “I am worthless” are all insane. Self-worth is a made-up concept. We are not born with a price tag. We cannot be worthy or worthless. As we have already discussed, we just are – neither good nor bad. When a baby is born, this baby is neither good nor bad. This baby is an entity called human being. We are entities, like Sun, Earth, Moon, trees, rivers, a squirrel. What we do may be effective or not effective, but it has nothing to do with us personally. 

2. Thoughts that connect our relationship with external world/other people with our relationship with ourselves are insane. We can succeed or fail; other people may like or dislike us and it has no connection to us personally. Someone may think that I am smart, and another person may think that I am stupid. Which one am I? Neither! It is their OWN opinion, that is based on their own internal world. We see ourselves in other people. We cannot see people how they actually are. Other people are just our own mirror images. We only know ourselves and can see ourselves in others. If I am self-critical, I will see other people are critical, I will criticize others and will tend to interpret what they tell me as criticism. It is very easy to see how a person relates to themselves, just look at how that person relates to others. It is a mirror image. Instead of swimming in all this insanity of allowing other people determine our relationship with self, we need to learn to maintain a stance –  “I just am AND I can be happy/disappointed, I can success/fail, others like/dislike me, others think that I am smart/stupid, etc.” Unfortunately, the information field in which we exist programs us to be one-sided by merging who we are with what we do and what others think about us. It is easy for us to see the insanity in the statement “I had a fight with my friend, I hate her and now I will go home and hate my mother,” as obviously these relationships are not connected. However, it is not that obvious to us that the statement “I had a fight with my friend, I hate her and now I hate myself” is just as insane. Our relationship with ourselves is parallel to our relationship with other people. The fact that we base our relationship with self on the relationship with the external world is just another example of our insanity!

3. Any attempts to achieve inner peace and self-love by satisfying conditions of “good enoughness” are insane, such as “to love myself and feel at peace, I need to be tall enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough, and other people have to love me first, etc.”  This is like saying “I need to be smart for my heart to continue to beat.” Love and self-love are unconditional. We cannot satisfy conditions to achieve something that is unconditional. We all have self-love; it is an instinct of self-preservation. We just need to learn how to connect to self-love at will, anytime we want. This is one of the skills that I teach my clients. And I am a suicidologist, which means that I work with people who hate themselves so much that their instinct of self-preservation had crumbled, and they want to kill themselves. In my 25 years of clinical experience, I did not have even one client who failed to connect to self-love. The process of connecting to self-love is indeed extremely simple. Actually, all of the formulas that I teach are simple but not easy, which is another example of dialectics.  

4. Practically any “facts” about the future, such as “I will never succeed, ”I will always feel this way,” “If only I read more to my children when they were young, they would have been better students now” and so forth, are insane. There are only two facts about the future: we all are going to die and whatever we are planning right now will not happen the way we imagine in the fashion/sequence/place/time that we plan. All our “facts” about the future, that feel so definitive, are just emotion-fueled illusions. 

5. Any expectations about “fairness” are completely unfounded. Fairness is just another made up concept. Out existence is based on a principle of Dialectics, where things are not the same or equal but complimentary, such as day/night, life/death, man/woman, ying/yang/ good/bad, etc. Fairness is about sameness. It is very easy to see that the expectation of sameness is just an illusion. If this world was based on things being the same or equal, we all would be very similar, with the same height, weight, intellectual capacities, talents, etc. This is obviously not so. We invented the concept of fairness because our sense of safety wants predictability, such as “If I do something bad, bad things will happen to me and if I do something good, good things will happen to me.” We want such predictability, but it does not exist. We can all attest that life is unpredictable and very unfair. It is an empirical fact. But we keep disregarding this fact because an expectation of fairness is just another figment of our imagination that we treat as real, and facts are irrelevant to illusions. So, we still get upset when unfair things happen and demand fairness from others. This is just another example of insanity. We can decide ourselves to treat fairy other people, but we cannot expect this in return, and we cannot expect this from life.

Now, what to do about the malware programs that have been coded and re-coded in our heads millions of times over the lifetime? The mechanism is the same – simple exercise of “real/not real.” Simple but not easy. It is not easy because we will not want to do it. It will be mood inconsistent. Our emotions, corresponding to these malware programs, will urge us to do what these programs want, feeding them, re-coding them, making them stronger. So what to do – recognize that this is a malware program and keep saying “Hi” to it over and over and over again (the moment of mindfulness). Do not argue with your malware programs. Just become aware of them, acknowledge them and name them as such – an imaginary monster. This will give you freedom of choice! Changing the way we think, feel and act is the only control in life that we have. Deal with pain and take control over suffering. Nobody will be able to do it for us. It is our own responsibility and a tremendous power, as when we change the way we think, we change what we feel and how we act. We change our world! Just like everything else – this formular is simple but not easy. It will not cure our human insanity. And our insanity does not need to be cured! As we said, it gives us the power of creation. We can just recognize that we are insane and learn how to use our power of imagination constructively, instead of destructively.


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