Who Is the Crazy One?
How to decipher the behavior of others.
Posted September 5, 2017 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
Has anyone ever told you “you’re crazy!”? They could have been referring to a risk you wanted to take, a perspective you had on something, a relationship you were involved in or a change you wanted to make. The word “crazy” is often used, but what does it really mean and when should you apply it? If you search on the definition of “crazy,” the variety of applications is far and wide:
- mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way:
- extremely enthusiastic:
- (of an angle) appearing absurdly out of place or in an unlikely position:
In fact, close to 20% of the entire American adult population is clinically diagnosed as mentally ill. They are not necessarily deranged, or even “wild or aggressive,” but they do suffer true mental health issues: “Every year, about 42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”
If you have encountered behavior that seems to be absurdly out of place or in an unlikely position, you’ve likely said either audibly or to yourself as self-talk, “that person is crazy.” You may try to avoid them, and do your best to stay as far away as possible.
Assuming you are not encountering someone with a true mental illness, how can you deal more effectively with people when their behavior triggers something in you and, rather than wanting to learn more, you move away in disgust?
There are many reasons you might react to what someone else is doing:
- You wouldn’t do things that way
- They are dramatic or over the top in their emotions and activities
- They don’t make any sense to you
- You have never heard, seen or been around someone “like that”
- They are from a different background, culture and/or point of view
- They act in an offensive or disturbing manner
- They create fear or resistance within you
In many cases, the odd or crazy behavior is due to a disconnect from the way you do things and what you understand to be true. Think about the current political environment – if you are in one camp or the other, you don’t just have a difference of opinion; the other camp considers you to be certifiably crazy in your leanings. When someone has a vastly different viewpoint, the tendency is to portray them as “out there”.
But what if you could learn from the oddities of others? What if, in seeking to understand, you might find a friend you would not have otherwise had? How can you stay more open to recognizing where behavior manifests and how?
Some of the things that make one be crazy include:
- Extreme levels of stress – the person may not have a good way to deal with their life circumstances and they just can’t cope, so instead of turning to stress management like meditation or mindfulness, they act out in emotionally charged ways.
- Rushing or being anxious – people who are late, who have commitments they might not be able to meet, or who worry about what they need to do next can act out in crazy and offensive ways. The rush never gets anyone to where they need to be more quickly; it just creates behavior that is negative to the person and those around them.
- Misunderstandings or lack of information – sometimes a person holds a certain set of beliefs that cause them to view the world through a colored lens. They don’t see things clearly, so they don’t react in the most objective and level manner.
- Lack of education – not everyone has had the opportunity to go through school and learn, and even those who have may not have learned all they need to know to deal with the events of the world most effectively.
- Past history or familial origins – many people carry baggage from their upbringing or childhood experiences. They carry over difficulties or beliefs that no longer serve them well, but that they don’t know how to discard.
- Underdeveloped communication skills – many people speak well in their heads, but don’t do a great job of speaking to others and communicating their true thoughts and feelings. They hide things, or try to shade them, and in doing so, can appear in a negative and even mistrusting manner.
- Fear – the great motivator for most all negative behavior in anyone is a basis of fear; fear of losing something, fear of embarrassment, fear of death and many, many others. When a person is fearful, they can’t possibly think and act in a rational way. The fear drives the behavior.
These are just a few of the drivers behind behavior you might interpret as negative or “crazy.” All human beings experience one of these at one point or another, and all act in less than optimal ways. To avoid your own upset and emotional reactions, take a step back the next time you meet someone whom you consider to be crazy and see if you might be able to unpack what’s underneath the surface. This is the true definition of compassion and care – and as an added bonus, it allows you to move from a negative and reactionary state to a more interested, objective one.