An Insane Definition of Insanity

Over at Swampland, Jay Newton-Small, referring to Harry Reid getting Republicans to cast yet another vote in opposition to financial reform writes:

…the vote ended exactly as it did yesterday 57-41, mostly along party lines. The scene is starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day: isn’t doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results the definition of insanity?

No. It’s not. That’s Einstein’s purported definition of insanity, and he was a theoretical physicist, not an expert on mental health. This catchy little quote keeps being tossed around by otherwise intelligent people as if it were a clarifying bit of wisdom, but it’s nonsense. If anything it would be a symptom of insanity, not a definition. And probably a rare symptom at that.

Ryan Howes (an actual mental health expert) clarifies:

Let’s not confuse perseveration with perseverance. A persistent quest against a fear or toward a goal is often the best course of action. Repeating the same constructive behavior over and over, hoping (one day) for a positive result is difficult but virtuous. It’s the effort made by eating oatmeal every morning, brushing your teeth after every meal and daily journaling. It’s weekly therapy, consistent workouts and taking time for spirituality. It’s Rudy trying over and over to get into Notre Dame. Or Mother Theresa tirelessly serving the poor. Or someone working to systematically overcome shyness, build healthier habits or communicate better with their spouse. It’s a 12-stepper taking it “one day at a time.” The qualities of perseverance, consistency, loyalty – these are beneficial to health and definitely not insane.


Looks like Reid’s “insane” perseverance has borne fruit.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  

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