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In Groups, Insanity is the Rule.

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

I stumbled across a quote that I used in my book Making Belief that resonates with yesterday's post. It’s from Friedrich Nietzsche:

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

Group-think, in other words, is so often sheep-think. But we are social animals, as the old saw goes. We crave approval. We want to belong. We want it so much that most of us have been willing to cast aside important parts of ourselves to feel that we belong.

Then we get resentful. Then we feel that we don't really belong because our true self isn't what's being accepted—a contrived self is being accepted.

The false premise of this hamster wheel is that the love we're really after can come from other people. It cannot. Period. It isn't the job of people around you to give you that love, and it never has been. It's your job.

In a culture that has long fed a romantic notion of complete fulfillment through one amazing sweetheart, this can be a big re-orientation. It has been for me. But it has been deeply gratifying.

It has, paradoxically, led me to be more social. I don’t need to perform or pretend to the extent I used to when I’m with other people. The less hobbled I am by wanting others to like me or be impressed by me, the more free I am to appreciate them and to enjoy myself. Which makes me better company.

Some clichés are dumb. Some are true. This part of the prayer of St. Francis is one of the true ones: “Lord, may I not so much seek to be loved as to love.”

This is not any kind of martyr trip. It feels so good to love. And to set others free to be as loving as they are capable of being in any given moment.

Navigating this is an art. Not identifying with the roller-coaster ride of feelings that inevitably come up in all relationships is one of the fundamentals of this art.

Is there a place for discipline and even fierceness in all this? Yes. The discipline comes not just in paying lip service to the truth, but in finding ways to practice it.

That practice won’t make you perfect. But we don’t want perfection. We want fulfillment.

she said she approved

“I approve of you”

I’ve given you

my stamp,

my imprimatur,

my divine

kiss, your very own


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