RSS Feed

If That’s the Definition of Insanity, Then We’re All Insane


I wish I could say it only took 2 punches for me to come to my senses. I have been knocked down more times than I care to admit and kept on fighting, even when I should have thrown in the towel. But I’m not going to beat myself up about that anymore. Someone has to be in my corner; it might as well be me.

It was Albert Einstein who said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With all due respect, he may have been a genius when it comes to mass and energy, but he obviously did not know much about psychology. Because people do this all the time.

For example, I struggled with depression for decades before I went to therapy. I went on and off meds until I had a relapse that terrified me. I’ve been in countless relationships that should have ended before they began. I’ve been working on my forehand for 10+ years but keep hitting it the same way. And I keep buying all this dried fruit in an attempt to eat healthier and end up throwing it all away.

It definitely feels crazy when you’re knowingly making the same mistakes over and over, that’s for sure. But if everyone is doing it, then insanity is normal.

Plus, seemingly irrational behaviors have a certain logic to them. Here are some reasons why we choose to stay in the boxing ring:

1. We’re not supposed to give up. Have you ever seen a motivational poster that says throw in the towel after you’ve been punched in the face twice? Our culture glorifies the fight to the death mentality. If we don’t give up, maybe we’ll be like Rudy and finally get put in the game. Or we’ll be David and slay the giant. Or we’ll come back from 0-6, 0-5 and win the match.

It’s the people who persevere despite all odds who accomplish great things.

2. One trial learning only works for food poisoning. You only have to get sick from a bad crab once to develop an aversion to it. Everything else takes many, many repetitions before we get it right. That’s how tennis pros are able to make a living.

3. Our brains prefer the road well-traveled. The road was paved long ago in our neuronal pathways before we could make our own travel plans, and it is the only path we’ve ever known. That’s why recovery is a process, even when we’re ready for change: it takes time for our neurons to get on board.

4. Change is scary. It’s much safer to have a predictable yet crappy outcome than it is to venture into the unknown. What if I leave this relationship or this job or this city, foregoing comfort and familiarity, only to have things turn out even worse than they were before? How do I know it won’t be a big waste of time and energy?

We don’t know for sure. That’s why change is not for the faint of heart. It requires a tremendous leap of faith in ourselves.

So I’d like to offer a new definition of insanity. Insanity is having the courage to try something different in order to get a different result.

May we all strive to be at least a little bit insane.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

12 responses »

  1. Thank you for new advice. I’ve finally put my foot down and am grasping a new approach with a desperate grasp even while the advice and encouragement I receive advocates more of the same. Worse, it’s startling how many people anger when you demand the right to try something different. Of course, bad advice has cast my tired approaches in stone so that’s an uphill climb, but I’ll break away or die trying. No more same. None. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wouldn’t give up on my lousy marriage because I vowed for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. He had no problem giving up on me. I wanted a divorce after the birth of our second child (now 28). He talked me out of it. I wish I’d gone then. It would have been easier to start over and remarry. Now I’m kind of old, but I’m still glad to be rid of him. He punched me more than once, and I wouldn’t quit.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicely said! Perhaps both viewpoints are correct as you point out. Insanity may be doing the same things over and over; but there is something to be said for learning a little more each time until you’re ready and strong enough to try a new way that might have better results! I’ve summed that concept up in one of my book in an easy to remember rhyme – “You learn as you go and then you know what you know!” I look forward to reading your future posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your newer definition a lot, Christy. And you had me at “I keep buying all this dried fruit in an attempt to eat healthier and end up throwing it all away.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great call to action. I do things that are insane all the time. (see latest blog post) but I always imagine a great outcome. I still have my share of setbacks, but keep on trying. I LOVE your reminder to keep trying something different to get a different outcome. Wow! I am going to embody that this week!

    I would love to see your forehand! I could at least straighten that out for you. If you want to improve your tennis game, hit the ball like a pro golfer. Don’t “pull your head” to see where the ball goes, keep it on your racket for a second. It’s super hard, but all the pros do it.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: