On the word "crazy"

I understand that some people may find this word alienating, so I want to take a minute to explain why I chose to use it. Crazy, and its more clinical-sounding cousin insane, are multi-purpose words in our language. Depending on the context they’re used in, they can mean wildly different things, from mentally unstable (that person is acting crazy) to amazing (the iPod is insanely great) to politically abhorrent (Newt Gingrich / Barack Obama / whoever you disagree with is crazy).

This is a really eloquent description of the destructive power of “crazy” from the Feminists With Disabilities website:

Crazy is a destructive word, used to hurt people with mental disabilities. It’s used to discredit, to marginalize, to make sure that we feel shame for our disability and discourage self-care, to make sure that those of us brave enough to publicly identify as having mental disabilities are continually discredited.

I can see where the different usages that the author describes can be alienating. My intent with the word crazy is not to point to a person with a mental disability or to even to something strange or alien but to processes in our minds that do not serve us. Everyone’s minds. Because simply by virtue of being raised in this culture at this time in human history, we all have thought patterns that are destructive, unnecessary, and, yes, crazy.

When I say “Be Less Crazy About Your Body,” I mean “Learn to analyze and work with your brain so that you can stop thinking the same old destructive thoughts over and over again.” Not such a catchy title … and honestly, I’m not sure that “destructive thought patterns” has the same meaning anyway.

Because when I say crazy, I am talking about a person’s subjective experience of feeling out of control, being swept away in a torrent of negative emotions, and continuing to act in ways that the more rational part of them knows damn well are no good.

Don’t we all have days when we feel happy and calm, and other days when our mind is raging with stuff we don’t want or need to think about? Days when we feel sane vs. days when we don’t?

We can really screw ourselves by acting out our own versions of insanity, whatever they look like. What I want to do is help folks learn to feel more stable on most days AND get through unstable ones without collateral damage.

I’m not describing people as crazy; I’m calling hurtful cognitive and emotional habits crazy. My goal is not to discredit or marginalize folks who struggle with mental illness, nor to refer to actual diagnoses of mental illness in any way; it is to offer helpful tools to anyone who wants to train their brain to be more relaxed and rational. More stable. Less crazy.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear them!