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Outsourcing our sanity

I get by with a little help from my friends (and family).

A lot is made of the individual keeping sane – and rightly so – but I really like the psychological idea that we outsource our sanity to the close people around us. Even the most stoic, emotionally stable, rational and introverted of us – like me – are not able to remain totally sane without social interaction.


“We are creatures that need – far more than we typically realise – to chit-chat our way through the agonies of being human.” – Alain de Botton

So, we have this process of outsourcing sanity to the people nearest to us. It speaks to the importance and necessity of in-person, face-to-face interaction and why we need it (even the most introverted of us). Sanity is about the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner through soundness of mind and is a derivation from the Latin word “sanitas” meaning health. Ergo, to be sane is to be of good health – it is a physical and psychological combination.

 

Human beings are social animals, so, as we saw during the COVID lockdowns, if you deprive people of social interaction they tend to go a little stir-crazy with many experiencing unusual levels of depression and anxiety. Now, what level of social interaction we need is dependent on the individual – some more, some less – but with living in general becoming increasingly more challenging, keeping a level-head and being surrounded by those who help not hinder is even more crucial.

 

The compassion, empathy and understanding that others can show and communicate, provides us with something we cannot source internally – and yes, self-compassion is different to compassion received from others. To borrow from Alain de Botton again, “what counts is that someone other than us is taking a view of our situation, and maintains faith in our fundamental decency and in the likelihood of a tolerable future.”

 

It was safe to say that last week I was not firing on all cylinders, in part for reasons I will not go into and in part down to a general depressive malaise teamed with anxiety spikes of worry and stress that affected my sleep and crippled my creativity. I could barely write a sentence all week and struggled to articulate my ideas with any clarity or coherence, so I opted to not put out any writing piece opposed to a half-assed one. I can’t be championing quality and serving up nonsense now can I?

 

It takes a lot to genuinely affect me, be it shock or surprise or mood related, I’m not easily shifted – I need a movement permit haha. So, the categorical shift in my mood that accompanied me after catching up with a friend on Saturday who I hadn’t seen for a while actually caught me off guard. The dramatic change (for me) in mood from one face-to-face interaction…I can’t recall the last time that happened…and hence the catalyst for this article.

 

Close family and friends are really good at helping us feel loved and understood, to feel less lonely and isolated. That our interests and pursuits are worthwhile and our concerns are legitimate, and sometimes not (which is equally important). To aid us in our dreams, but keep one foot grounded in reality. A reassuring “she’ll be right mate” when you’re unsure if it will be.

 

The world is not getting more sane, it’s getting less sane, as if some architect is moving the sliders on a computer simulation. Soundness of mind is essential along with a small circle of people you can trust to ensure your own sanity. Recently, I think I’ve become too consumed by the negative elements of existence, the why and how people are against me. The world I know is disappearing (and it scares me), but is it as bad I as imagine? Maybe, maybe not, but I have my team to succeed against the vicissitudes of life…do you have yours?   

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Bless strong family and friend connections, what would we do without them. 🤗

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