The cases described in this section (The Fear of Being) may seem extreme, but I have become convinced that they are not as uncommon as one would think. Beneath the seemingly rational exterior of our lives is a fear of insanity. We dare not question the values by which we live or rebel against the roles we play for fear of putting our sanity into doubt. We are like the inmates of a mental institution who must accept its inhumanity and insensitivity as caring and knowledgeableness if they hope to be regarded as sane enough to leave. The question who is sane and who is crazy was the theme of the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. The question, what is sanity? was clearly asked in the play Equus.The idea that much of what we do is insane and that if we want to be sane, we must let ourselves go crazy has been strongly advanced by R.D. Laing. In the preface to the Pelican edition of his book The Divided Self, Laing writes: In the context of our present pervasive madness that we call normality, sanity, freedom, all of our frames of reference are ambiguous and equivocal. And in the same preface: Thus I would wish to emphasize that our 'normal' 'adjusted' state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities; that many of us are only too successful in acquiring a false self to adapt to false realities.Wilhelm Reich had a somewhat similar view of present-day human behavior. Thus Reich says, Homo normalis blocks off entirely the perception of basic orgonotic functioning by means of rigid armoring; in the schizophrenic, on the other hand, the armoring practically breaks down and thus the biosystem is flooded with deep experiences from the biophysical core with which it cannot cope. The deep experiences to which Reich refers are the pleasurable streaming sensations associated with intense excitation that is mainly sexual in nature. The schizophrenic cannot cope with these sensations because his body is too contracted to tolerate the charge. Unable to block the excitation or reduce it as a neurotic can and unable to stand the charge, the schizophrenic is literally driven crazy.But the neurotic does not escape so easily either. He avoids insanity by blocking the excitation, that is, by reducing it to a point where there is no danger of explosion, or bursting. In effect the neurotic undergoes a psychological castration. However, the potential for explosive release is still present in his body, although it is rigidly guarded as if it were a bomb. The neurotic is on guard against himself, terrified to let go of his defenses and allow his feelings free expression. Having become, as Reich calls him, homo normalis, having bartered his freedom and ecstasy for the security of being well adjusted, he sees the alternative as crazy. And in a sense he is right. Without going crazy, without becoming mad, so mad that he could kill, it is impossible to give up the defenses that protect him in the same way that a mental institution protects its inmates from self-destruction and the destruction of others.
Alexander Lowen
To satisfy our doubts . . . it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but by some external permanency -- by something upon which our thinking has no effect. . . . Our external permanency would not be external, in our sense, if it was restricted in its influence to one individual. It must be something which affects, or might affect, every man. And, though these affections are necessarily as various as are individual conditions, yet the method must be such that the ultimate conclusion of every man shall be the same. Such is the method of science. Its fundamental hypothesis, restated in more familiar language, is this: There are Real things, whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions about them; those Reals affect our senses according to regular laws and, though our sensations are as different as are our relations to the objects, yet, by taking advantage of the laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really and truly are; and any man, if he have sufficient experience and he reason enough about it, will be led to the one True conclusion. The new conception here involved is that of Reality. It may be asked how I know that there are any Reals. If this hypothesis is the sole support of my method of inquiry, my method of inquiry must not be used to support my hypothesis. The reply is this: 1. If investigation cannot be regarded as proving that there are Real things, it at least does not lead to a contrary conclusion; but the method and the conception on which it is based remain ever in harmony. No doubts of the method, therefore, necessarily arise from its practice, as is the case with all the others. 2. The feeling which gives rise to any method of fixing belief is a dissatisfaction at two repugnant propositions. But here already is a vague concession that there is some one thing which a proposition should represent. Nobody, therefore, can really doubt that there are Reals, for, if he did, doubt would not be a source of dissatisfaction. The hypothesis, therefore, is one which every mind admits. So that the social impulse does not cause men to doubt it. 3. Everybody uses the scientific method about a great many things and only ceases to use it when he does not know how to apply it. 4. Experience of the method has not led us to doubt it, but, on the contrary, scientific investigation has had the most wonderful triumphs in the way of settling opinion. These afford the explanation of my not doubting the method or the hypothesis which it supposes; and not having any doubt, nor believing that anybody else whom I could influence has, it would be the merest babble for me to say more about it. If there be anybody with a living doubt upon the subject, let him consider it.
Charles Sanders Peirce