Monday, January 6, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life ~ Day 6 ~ Insanity

Day 6 ~

"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” 

Narcotics Anonymous

Before we get to the actual quote, I need to just tell you all how much time I have spent trying to figure out who actually said it.

This is one of those quotes that you see floating around online all.the.time, and it seems like every time you see it, someone else is credited with it.

It's been linked to at least all of the following people: Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Rita Mae Brown, but most likely was actually said originally by someone affiliated with either Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.

Or someone else. Who knows?

Anyhow. On to the quote.

One of the more lengthy discussions of this quote was on the site Psychology Today where the author spent much time basically saying that the definition of insanity isn't at all like doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.

Insanity is actually a legal term having to do with a defendant's inability to distinguish between right and wrong, to appreciate the gravity of their actions, and is not in any way related to a specific clinical diagnosis.

Compulsions to repeat behavior can come from several different mental illnesses.

So, technically, it's wrong. Doesn't stop people from using it.

Words aren't always used in the manner according to their technical definitions in our society, and they never have been, so in some ways discussion of the actual book definition of something isn't nearly enough of a discussion at all. We rely on slang here, on regional usage, on phrases and sayings that often take words out of the context for which they are intended.

There are insanity workouts, which are especially common every year in the month of January. I mean, if you type insanity in the Google search bar, insanity workout is the first thing that autofills. I can't imagine that this type of exercise actually has a goal of making anyone crazy or of staving off actual mental illness, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume they mean it in a more flippant way. More like, this workout is really intense, but saying it was a really intense workout didn't sound intense enough, so we're going to throw insanity in there to drive the point home.

People often complain about the traffic being insane, gas prices being insane, crowds being insane, family members being insane (okay, so that one might technically be true), grocery prices being insane, and so on and so forth.

It's clearly a word that is used without actual connection to its meaning.

Since most people use it wrong, we'll start here, at this assumption of improper use, and discuss the quote itself.

I've used this one a few times in my writing here, usually in reference to something the government is doing, or some societal compulsion to keep having the same arguments but doing nothing to actually remedy the situation.

Gun rights/control debates, for instance, are a prime example of this societal insanity. Every single time a shooting happens, everyone and their brother hops up on their soapbox, rants about whatever their opinions are, postulates about whether anything could change things, then gives up after a few days.

Then what happens?

Not a damn thing.

Nothing happens until the next time it happens, then the soapboxes are drug out, dusted off and the cycle starts all over again.

You'd think that at some point our collective selves would figure out that we're getting nowhere.

Or not.

And, that, my friends, is insane.


  1. Medical Definition of INSANITY
    : a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as paranoid schizophrenia)
    : unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility.

    insanity noun
    : severe mental illness : the condition of being insane

    : something that is very foolish or unreasonable
    plural insanities

    Full Definition of INSANITY
    : a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
    : such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
    a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
    b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable

    Examples of INSANITY

    She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

    His friends thought his decision to quit his job was pure insanity.

    Please, no more violence. It's time to stop this insanity.
    the insanities of modern life

    First Known Use of INSANITY

    Related to INSANITY

    aberration, dementia, derangement, lunacy, madness, mania, rage [archaic]

    mind, saneness, sanity

    Related Words
    neurosis, psychosis; instability, irrationality, unreasonableness; delirium, frenzy, hysteria; hallucinosis, hypomania, paranoia, schizophrenia; senile dementia; delusion, hallucination; monomania, obsession, phobia; abnormality, dementedness, unsoundness

    Near Antonyms
    lucidity, rationality, rationalness, reasonability, reasonableness; normality, soundness

    Other Psychology Terms
    fetish, hypochondria, intelligence, mania, narcissism, neurosis, pathological, psychosis, schadenfreude, subliminal


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