About sanity and insanity

Are you insane ?

This is a common question that should be considered as an attack on your sanity. Why? Simply because the question is made from a primitive point of view. In this page I will show you, that you can not be sane or insane. And that makes the question 'Are you insane ?' a primitive question, that attacks your mental health.

Check your world

What is the first thing every person should do before getting out of bed? You should check if the world is as it was when you went to sleep. Is there still a floor under your bed? If not, stepping out of bed can be dangerous.

When you are not in a students dorm, there is not much chance that your world has changed significantly. If you are in a students dorm, you could be victim of a prank and your bed could be placed in the mud.

When you wake up, you immediately see an image of your world as you know it. In most cases, this image looks like 'the real world'. But in extreme cases, the world can be changed. For example: After severe rainfall your house can be in the midst of a river.

This may seem trivial to you. But think about it. Think about a person you knew 20 years ago and that you haven't seen the last 20 years. In your mind you have an image of this person, that is more or less the same as 20 years ago. But the actual person is changed completely. If you predict the reaction of this person on a given situation, you probably will use your image of that person, that is 20 years old. Your knowledge about that person has become obsolete.

Is there much difference between your image of a person you haven't seen in 20 days and your image of another person you haven't seen in 20 years? In structure: No !!! Your images of both persons are old. The same principles apply to both persons and your images of them. But an image that is 20 years old is no longer useful, an image that is 20 days old, is not 100% accurate but useful.

In my car I have a map that is more than 10 years old. It is usable, since highways do not change very fast. But newer roads are not on that map. In some situations this leads to errors.

The map should be IN STRUCTURE identical to the country it describes. My 10 year old map is in structure identical enough. It is still useful.

Suppose you have a map that is in structure completely different to the country. On a map of the USA New York is in Texas, Los Angeles is at the east-coast and San Francisco is near Lake Michigan. Such a map would cause a lot of troubles. I am from the Netherlands. When the Nazi's invaded our country the Dutch replaced names of streets and towns to confuse the invader. The names on the German maps did no longer correspond to the names of towns and streets.

In our mind we have a map of our world. This map should be IN STRUCTURE identical to the world in which we live. If you live in the USA and you have a map of the USA where New York is in Texas, you have a problem. If you live in the USA in 2014 and in your mind you have an image of the USA in which Herbert Hoover is president and the T-Ford is a modern car, you have a bigger problem. But these problems are easy to detect. Most structural differences between your map of your world and the real world are more difficult and cause more problems.


  • Are your ideas about Afro-American / Native American / Caucasian / Asian people in structure identical to the real people? Of course not. Everyone uses stereotypes for people and groups of people. You can believe and even say that 'you hate black guys' while you have a black friend. You can rationalize this by saying, that your black friend 'is different' from other black guys. But your black shop-keeper is different from other black people to. (The same can be said about members of each race or ethnic group.)
  • The previous example can be used with males and females and their stereotypes.
  • How about your ideas about politicians? People who vote but are not in direct contact with politicians often have strong ideas about politicians. Local politicians are regarded in another way than politicians far away. In the USA that would be about 'politicians in Washington'. In the EU that would be about 'politicians in Brussels'. Quite often the prejudice is stronger when people know less about them.
  • How about wolves? Wolves have been hunted down because people believed, that they were terrible monsters. Biologists found out, that they have a key-role in many eco-systems.

In the examples above we can identify problems caused by structural differences between our map of the world and the real world. Our behaviour is less sane when there are huge differences between our map and the world. Our behaviour becomes saner when we diminish the structural differences between our inner map and the real world.

How sane are you ?

The question 'Are you insane ?' is from an analytic point of view a wrong question. You are not either sane or insane.

We can define sanity like this:

The degree in which your inner map of your world is in structure identical to the world in which you live corresponds to the degree of your sanity. When your inner map of your world is in structure completely identical to the world in which you live, you are 100% sane. This is not possible. The world and the people in it are in constant change. It is not possible to keep up with all the changes. At any moment there will be a difference in structure between your inner map and the world in which you live. So you can never be completely sane. Neither can you be completely insane.

The question 'How sane are you ?' can be answered objectively by analysing the differences in structure between the world in which you live and your inner map of your world.

Main conclusion:

You can sanitize your mind by simply updating your inner map of the world. Or in plain English: get your facts straight. Diminish your cultural bias, your prejudice towards people of certain groups. That can be groups based on gender, race, occupation, social status, etc.

About structural identity

The map in my car is not identical to the country itself. The country has trees, that grow, rivers that flow, etc. My map is just a piece of paper. When my map shows a blue line from east to west and a symbol of a bridge over that blue line, I expect a river running east-west and not north-south. I also expect a bridge. When there is no bridge, I conclude that the bridge is gone and that my map is out of date. Not a big deal, more an inconvenience. But if the actual river runs north-south and on my map it is represented by a blue line running east-west, I have a bigger problem. In that case, the structure of the map is vastly different from the structure of the country.

Your inner map is not the real world. At best, they are more or less in structure identical.

About the world in which you live

We all live on the planet Earth. But that is not the world in which we live. We live in an environment, that looks different for everyone. When a member of a minority lives in the same neighbourhood as a member of the dominant class, they see the same buildings and the same trees and the same people. But they live in different worlds. A house does not change it's behaviour, but people do. And although a building doesn't change it's behaviour, that does not mean, that it behaves the same to all people. When a policeman enters a police-station, the building seems to welcome that person. When a suspect is brought in, the building appears to be a place of doom. And that is not just a matter of interpretation of the subject. The things that happen to a policeman in a police-station are different from the things that happen to a suspect.

In general: We all live in our own private world. The world appears differently to all living beings. We assume, that there is an objective world, that simply is. But we can not describe it, because we can only describe our own private world.

With Light and Love, Andreas Firewolf


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