One of the more common questions I’m asked in therapy is, “Am I crazy?!!” My clients tend to wonder how they compare to all those “normal” people out there.
This question calls to mind Alice in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic, Alice in Wonderland (or at least the 1951 Disney cartoon version). Not long after falling down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself lamenting the nonsense of Wonderland to the Cheshire Cat, who matter-of-factly responds, “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
Alice initially resists this sentiment, and therefore, also resists taking her place in Wonderland. However, as the story progresses and she embraces her place in the madness around her, she is better able to move through it and return to her life as a changed person. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from her journey.
Like Alice, we’re all in Wonderland at some point in our lives, whether grieving a loved one, recovering from a painful relationship, or managing difficult feelings like anxiety or depression. And also like Alice, many of us try to resist or hide these struggles from ourselves and others, which typically leaves us feeling shame and isolation.
- “I asked my brother how he is handling Mom’s death and he said he’s already back at work. I must be crazy because I still cry every day.”
- “My friend and her wife don’t fight like we do. How messed up are we?”
- “No one else talks about their thoughts racing at night. I must be losing my mind.”
Feeling this way is understandable, but ultimately not productive. In our role as therapists, we invite people to embrace their madness a bit more fully, believing that ultimately it is likely to lead to stronger relationships, increased self-confidence, and a fresh perspective. And above all, embracing yourself and your current station can create a renewed hope that change is possible.
So, like Alice, when you find yourself asking whether you’ve gone mad…remember these wise words from The Mad Hatter:
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something — the best people usually are.“
Laura Brackett, MEd, PLPC, is a therapist at Change, Inc., the premier counseling and wellness center of South City, St. Louis, MO. Contact her for counseling at 314-669-6242, or email@example.com.