The term ‘functional insanity’ is one that’s been rolling around in my head for the last week as I’ve been stepping back to take in the larger scheme of things. It seems to be an undeniable fact that to some degree each of us practices this ‘functional’ insanity mode to some degree or another. Some people in small, insignificant ways that result in very minor consequences, while others to a greater extreme resulting in large, obvious consequences.
When functional insanity is put into practice it’s usually because two choices present themselves which are completely contrary, one good and one bad for us… yet we choose that which is bad. These two things we have to choose from are the ‘Ideal’ (the way things should be) and the ‘Reality’ (the way we decide things to be). An example of this is as follows. ‘Ideally’, what you may truly desire is to go about your life unencumbered by inconveniences of a traffic ticket, court appearance and penalty fine. Most people would just as soon never have to write out a check to the local court for a speeding ticket. So the ‘Ideal’ stands before us to say that if you drive the posted speed limit, your chances of paying a fine for speeding are almost nonexistent. You accept this reality as true, for it simply is.
Yet something else is equally true and valid. You are in a hurry. You desire to go faster than the posted limit. Or perhaps you simply feel that since the majority of other drivers are moving along safely, it is therefore safe for you to speed. Another element of truth may be the fact that everyone else around you is currently speeding beyond the posted limit. Past experience tells you that ‘maybe’ you will not get caught. Perhaps you rationalize and decide, “If no one else is going to heed the limit, then neither shall I.” (Of course, this does not make you immune from getting a citation, as many of you have found out.)
Now, a 100% completely rational mind would conclude that since speeding will easily lead to a speeding citation, the citation can be avoided by… not speeding. You’ve already decided that you definitely don’t want a citation, or a fine, or to endanger your life. But you’ve also determined that you are in a hurry and desire to speed beyond the posted limit. So now we have the makings for an irrational decision. Our driver decides to take his/her chances and begins to speed beyond the legal limit.
We now have a person who does not want a speeding citation choosing to do the very thing that will get him a citation. The ‘ideal’ choice would be to go the posted limit. They could have made the choice to make the ‘Ideal’ a reality by driving safely. But instead the desire within them over-rides this line of reasoning and decides to accelerate outside the scope of the law, thus making the undesirable choice the new ‘Reality’. It’s at this time it’s good to recognize the difference between ‘reasons’ and ‘excuses’. A person may have many ‘reasons’ for choosing to speed (or make a bad choice), but will still lack an ‘excuse’. They may say, “Everyone else was speeding.”, or “I was running late.” or, “I wasn’t paying attention.”.. all of which are very good reasons, but not excuses that will ‘excuse’ the person from the consequences of their decision.
So back to the issue of relationships. In these articles we’ve covered many principles and observations that are helpful, necessary elements to a good, supportive, loving commitment between two people. On paper and in our minds these principles make up the Ideal. But the Reality is that in life we will run into many people who also understand various elements of the Ideal, but will still choose to employ the very tactics that hurt and destroy a loving relationship. Reality is that we ourselves will have times in our lives when this ‘functional insanity’ overcomes our decision-making and we will understand that something like anger, selfishness, infidelity, disrespect, etc., will hurt our situation and then the very next moment put that vice into practice. It makes no sense. We have no good excuse, though we may have plenty of reasons. To say, “I yelled at my wife because I had a bad day at work.” may provide the reason for our decision, but hardly qualifies as an excuse.
Our example with the speeding citation may seem so commonplace we may think of it as an insignificant decision. As mentioned before, some decisions have minor consequences, others are not so minor. In deciding to speed we could just as easily get a citation as have an unexpected blow-out on our tire and cause the death of an innocent bystander as our car swerves to one side. We may know that being cold, bitter and unforgiving to a kindhearted mate will eventually ruin what love is there, and still persist in that habit anyway. A good habit can be considered character while a bad habit can be called a rut. A ‘rut’ (or ‘groove’) has been described as nothing more than a grave with both ends knocked out.. persist in such ruts and eventually something dies.
I’ve done a fair amount of counseling both formally and informally and found that many, not all, but many times the person was not so much in need of ‘learning’ or finding out the right thing to do… but simply being ‘reminded’ that it was time to do it. When we want to exercise kindness we will find ways to do it. But when we reward kindness with harshness, it is not so much for ignorance as it is for choice. When we encounter someone who returns our kindnesses with their harshness we have to bring the Ideal back into focus for them, by way of reminder, communication, honestly and intimately. And, if they refuse it persistently, we must come to the hard reality that this person may not possess the love we desire, or once thought them to possess.
Because we humans are imperfect no matter what our religious, moral or personal aspirations and beliefs.. there is always in front of us this beacon calling us forward to what is known as the Ideal, the way things should be done. Some people fix their eyes on this goal knowing Reality will never fully resemble it, but in the process of reaching for and practicing the Ideal they make the present Reality a much better place to live. Others know the principles of the Ideal but refuse to look at it and will even spurn or make it difficult for others to lay hold of such things as kindness, honesty, affection, love, forgiveness, gentleness, mercy, etc.
And so it is that each of us continually is presented with one situation after another in the way we deal with our friends, children, parents, enemies, lover and God. Will we repeatedly reach out and try to do what we know is good and good for us? Or will we feign once again to the functional, yet insane choices that we know will hurt ourselves and those around us? If we continually make bad decisions we have little room to complain of our plight and consequences. For as Jim Kearns once said… “Insanity is continuuing to do things the way we have always done them and expecting to get different results.”
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.