The Blurring Lines of Sanity and Insanity

Abhishek Chauhan
3 min readMay 17, 2020


We live our day-to-day life with a certain threshold of pain (mental) endurance, a bar that has been set by the amalgamation of our past experiences, the way in which we’ve been brought up, and our personalities as a result of so.

Generally, people that have had terrible life experiences develop a higher threshold of pain than the people who have been sailing a smooth ride. It’s very natural to develop a sort of “psychological immunity” to the brunt of hard-hitting waves of misfortune as a tactic of survival.

For some, this might be a sign of mental growth and perhaps result in higher emotional intelligence. But some develop a trait of “insensitivity” or “indifference”, again as a survival measure. Now, what is so fundamentally different between the two traits that are consequences of the same nature of stimuli, is something self-evident yet difficult to demarcate.

While Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own emotions in response to a stimulus and being able to gauge the appropriateness of one’s actions; Insensitivity or indifference is the complete lack of an emotional response to a stimulus.

Why the mere existence of the latter is so imperiling to one’s mental health is because sensation, i.e. the perception of external stimulus, is the very character of a living being. It’s what makes us human, and it’s what the joy of living is all about. Not being able to sense or develop an emotional response to an external stimulus strays us from the path of being a human.

However, this indifference to the dynamics of life isn’t permanent. It is ironic, in a sense, that prolonged indifference finally results in an all-out extreme emotional response as a result of stored up psychological pressure of not being able to feel any emotions.

One of the most common outlets that it finds to come out from is “anger” or an “emotional outburst” that makes us say or do things that we wouldn’t “normally”. The amount of pent-up pressure decides the extent of the outburst. Socially, such an outburst, or even the person, is labeled as “insane”: something that a sane person wouldn’t do.

What comes to realize is that there’s only a thin line between sanity and insanity, and that indifference blurs those lines. Now, how to stop it? Well, there is always a starting point and then there are inflection points, technically labeled as traumas. And there are four simultaneous actions that can help, “Introspection”, “Acknowledgement”, “Ownership” and “Micro-changes”.

Introspection helps in figuring out what were the critical points in one’s life. It’s important to find when and where such points existed in one’s life. And acknowledging these critical points lead to an understanding of psychological measures one has willingly or unwillingly adopted in order to survive through them.

Then comes ownership, and it begins with acceptance. It is very probable that after acknowledging these critical points, one might feel terrible or even disgusted about themself. Acceptance of one’s nature helps them own up to their mental chaos, which is a necessary step before implementing any changes.

Finally, comes the micro-changes that one has to implement in their day to day life by being conscious about their nature and their perception of things/situations. It’s a series of split-second decisions (now made consciously, not impetuously) whenever faced with demanding circumstances. It’s painful, but it’s necessary.

In the end, this will help you to not do something that you want to, but something that you should or need to.

References: my musings