Why is society insane

It's not the crazy ones, the normal ones are the problem

Was Hitler really crazy? Certainly, it is not normal to start a world war and commit genocide. But is that already sick? By no means! Because if it were so, then one might even have to declare a Hitler incapable of guilt. The man from Braunau am Inn was undoubtedly a monstrous figure, immeasurable in his hatred, in his aggression, in his will to destroy, but he was not sick. To claim that Adolf Hitler was ill trivializes the horror of the historical catastrophe associated with this name. Then Hitler would only have had to be given decent psychiatric treatment, and the whole problem would have dissipated with pleasure. With a little medication, a little sheltered living and, above all, work therapy for a mentally disturbed Munich painter, the deaths of millions of people could have been prevented. But that's nonsense. Hitler was normal, terribly normal. He was so normal that he even had a special ability to adjust to the normal, namely to say exactly what they wanted to hear, what they wanted to say.

In his classic biography of Hitler, Joachim Fest fixed historical greatness on the question of whether a person is able to bundle the thinking and feeling of an era - and he came to the alarming conclusion that one cannot simply deny that Adolf Hitler was great. In fact, it took a tremendous amount of communication to use populist rhetoric to create a mood for oneself, to fixate people on oneself, to use them for one's own purposes and then to drive a whole state, even a whole world, into a war. Hitler was deeply angry, he was one of the greatest criminals in human history. A mental disorder would have made such a debilitating process, which lasted for almost thirty years, impossible.

When you as a psychiatrist deal with mentally ill people during the day, touching demented people, sensitive addicts, thin-skinned schizophrenics, sensitive depressives, gorgeous manics, all the other colorful figures of the psycho world, and in the evening you see the news about bloodthirsty warmongers, unscrupulous economic criminals, reckless egomaniac, then you can get the idea: Not the crazy, but the normal ones are our problem!

But there is not only this completely normal madness of a few like Hitler and Stalin, there are also all the many madly normal people, people who, whatever the cost, want to be in the trend at all times, who follow along and who are always accurate know what to say and what not to say. These insane normals like to applaud when they perform in bulk. Then they also cheer Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Kim Il-sung. Then the insane normal people stand in rank and file in front of some hideous representative of completely normal insanity and feel good.

Psychoanalysis teaches that people are seriously disturbed when they split off parts of their life story or their psychological existence from themselves. It is just as bad for a society that merely expels the crazy in it, in the best of cases has it professionally taken care of in its own closed areas and develops a rigid, intolerant self-image of normality that is just a facade. A society that is self-insecure in this way would not be sovereign and serene, but rather deeply worried every time it scratches this facade, latently aggressive and thus on the best way to the dictatorship of normality, which overcomes its own insecurity with simple slogans and ruthlessly fights everything deviating.

"Normal is a bit of nonsense", this famous sentence by a psychiatrist at the beginning of the 20th century, which was actually only coined with reference to human intelligence, is now completely ironic. In any case, the totalitarianisms of the 20th century invented and tried out the instruments with which one can implement such a dictatorship of normality. Even if those forms of government turned out to be too weak in the battle of the systems: The fact that a society can be uniformed with modern methods is now forever stored in the memory of humanity. Are we ready again today? Philosophers are already complaining that one can no longer speak as freely as it was fifty years ago, that political correctness affects all areas of life and that the public mercilessly attacks people who say what one shouldn't say.

But that is precisely what people with mental disorders do. You don't let yourself be uniformed. In doing so, they are doing us all a great service, because they keep the human temperature of a society above freezing point by giving it not only one human face, but many different human faces. As the recent case of Robert Enke, who was seriously ill, shows, the public knows far too little about mental illness. There is an urgent need for clarification. Today we have a great opportunity to finally put down the invisible barriers that still separate the normals from the others. Then the view of this amiable and colorful other world becomes free, which is more chaotic, but also more imaginative, more shocking, but also more existential, more painful, but also less cynical than the smoothly painted normality.

There are the vain successful people who, as demented people, need help, but at the same time seem really real and touching for the first time. There are always so correct and sensitive addicts who are tirelessly searching for a person who no longer shames, despises, and hurts them all their lives, and who, while intoxicated, long to get out of a world that is so ruthlessly overwhelmed by their sensitivity. There are the wise schizophrenics who live not just in one, but in many fantastic worlds, who politely refuse any uniformed intrusiveness on the part of their fellow men and who do not impose their secrets on anyone. Those who are thinner than others, but also more sensitive to some things that do not seem worth mentioning to us. There are the shockingly depressed people who stare fearfully into existential nothingness, who for a period of their lives have become incapable of turning their gaze away from man's all-questioning primal experiences, from hopeless guilt, from existential threats, from hopeless fear. A society on the edge of the abyss dances overhead, blind to the important questions - and strangely enough, this blindness is normal.

There are the gorgeous manics who burst into a normal society frozen in lifeless rites in their full and immediate vitality. Who, despite all their megalomania, unrestrainedly tell the truth, as children sometimes do, and suddenly spectacularly expose all the mendaciousnesses of the "normal". There are all those people who have been thrown out of the marked path by life events and who are now battered and marked by life are looking for their real path, which often leads through phases of suffering to greater maturity and deeper serenity. And there are all these shrill characters who repeatedly worry themselves and others, who are not at all normal, but also not actually sick. They bring color into a rippling life, it's the exciters, the exaggerators, the all too angular figures, which you can occasionally injure yourself and which you can hardly get past at the same time.

The tyranny of normality lives from the great illusion of the eternal continued existence of the normal and the volatility of the extraordinary. It will probably be the other way around. Because the normal does not happen, it is just the background for the real. Basically, the normal does not exist because it has no substance. The question of eternity only arises in view of the unrepeatability of a person, and whoever takes a closer look can notice the extraordinaryness of each person. Then in bright moments, even behind the veil of the decent normality of all the normopaths, the long-forgotten vivid colors come to light, and these unique colors are remembered when one remembers people.

The author is a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and theologian. His book "Crazy. We treat the wrong people. Our problem is the normal ones. A cheerful science of the soul" has just been published.