Because of my views on many issues – covid, mortality, purpose, etc – differ from the mainstream, I spend a lot of time and energy wondering if I am insane.
I read David Loy’s “Lack & Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism” midway months ago and forgot about it. It was a book I randomly discovered from someone’s tweet, and I immediately purchased it because it has all the key words I am attracted to in its title. I just finished a book and was looking for my next read when I chanced upon it again. I decided to start at the beginning again instead of resuming where I had left off, because I had completely forgotten everything I’ve read.
These quotes struck me deeply:
For Becker, this is literally true: normality is our collective, protective madness, in which we repress the truth of the human condition, and those who have difficulty playing this game are the ones we call mentally ill…a paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on. Psychoanalysis reveals the high price of denying this truth about man’s condition, what might be called “the costs of pretending not to be mad.”
Evidently we must choose between anxiety and repression. If we cannot face the truth of our condition, which is mortality (or groundlessness, according to my Buddhist interpretation), we must forget that truth, which is to repress it. The difference between neurosis and normality — that undramatic, unnoticed psychopathology of the average, according to Maslow — is how successful that repression is. The neurotic has a better memory than most of us, so anxiety keeps breaking through into consciousness and must be dealt with more harshly in order to preserve some purchase on one’s fate, some circumscribed sphere of action.
According to him, apparently I am always anxious because I have a better memory than other people? And being “normal” is a mask for our collective madness?
I recognise I am biased obviously, but it is still comforting to know there are people (philosophers mostly I guess) out there who have a radically different worldview from the norm. Maybe it doesn’t make me feel less insane – what is the definition of sanity and normal anyway – but it does make me feel less alone in the way I think of life and the world.