"How to Escape Insanity" Chapter 2 Surviving: Building an Emotional Support Network

Building Friendships
Conversations with Emotions and Self-Reflection

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“If you desire healing,
let yourself fall ill,
let yourself fall ill.”

Chapter 2 of “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab

In this chapter I am going to talk about influencing people and making friends.  If you have a lot of insanity you need friends for three reasons:

1) To give you the emotional support you need to make it through the 'pure survival' phase of insanity, where you feel horrible all the time and maybe even want to kill yourself sometimes.

2) To help you with the healing work you need in order to become happy, which is needed in order to execute a successful escape.

3) To, eventually, help you in your escape plan  i.e. you are creating your own little 'African Village.'

If you don't worry about insanity, you still need friends to survive terrible things in life like depression, illness, anxiety, divorce .. and the list of suffering goes on.   You will need friends to be happy.

Are you a woman (or someone who feels like a woman) who has lots of girlfriends?  Do you get together with your girlfriends often?  Then you are sitting in a good position.  You will have to start chatting with people in lots of one-on-one conversations rather than just group events, though.  Make some more friends too.

Are you a man (or someone who feels like a man) who has lots of guy friends who you play sports with and go to the bar with?  That's iffy.  You will have to ask them for a different kind of friendship.  It is hard to say how many will go for it.  You may have to go out and make some more friends that are deeper, and probably at least one female friend.

Do you see yourself as an emotional person?  Do view yourself as easily being able to ensnare people in your manipulative web by sharing emotions with them?  Do you feel you can easily trick people into caring for you?  OK,  this is good.  Keep it up; this will be useful for you.  Make even more friends than you have now.  You should be able to get the emotional support and assistance you need to go through your healing journey.  Eventually you should be able to get people to go along with your escape plan without problems.  You see, even though you think you are tricking them, people are quite capable of seeing what's underneath.  They will follow through with you because they truly care for you, because they can recognize all the beauty and love in your true self and they will trust you.  But if you want to insist you are tricking them and that you are not actually lovable, that's totally fine.  Go with that.  

Do you feel you have trouble making friends?  Do you notice you don't actually talk about your emotions when you are with your friends?  Do you feel those around you don't really seem to care about you?  Do you have trouble talking about emotions even with your family?  You need to change your ways a little, my friend.  You require people's empathy to survive the bad times.  Other people's wisdom will be necessary in your healing journey.  Only other people can help you to execute your escape plan.  If you tried to escape now, you would have to resort to clumsy manipulations that would just annoy people.  Or even if you got people to go along with you, before healing your unconscious won't provide a real, working escape plan.  We need to get you making true friends for the long term, who can be with you through all the stages of the journey.

I, myself, started my escape with one friend (Kit) and one spouse.  I relied on these two people utterly for the first three months of my journey.  But then Kit left to go hiking in the wilderness for six months, and I was left with zero friends.  However, one thing Kit did for me before leaving was to train me how to be a true friend who can provide meaningful emotional support.  I had to start from scratch in finding friends, but I had gained a few skills.  So what I did was email every acquaintance I had who I thought might be a good person to talk to.  You might consider my email kind of pathetic; I was  admitting I was in a tight spot and looking for friends. The emails went something like this:

Dear Person,

I am going through a tough time right now in my life. I am looking for friendship to help me through.  Would you be willing to get together with me for coffee in the next couple of weeks?

Take care,


About half the people I emailed indeed became my true friends.  I also listed ads on some internet friendship personals (Kijij and Craigslist):

   40-something male on a healing journey looking for deep conversation

I made one great true friend doing this.  It was slightly embarrassing, but totally worth it.

It isn't actually too hard to make friends when you find yourself in a difficult position in life; many people out there really like the idea they are 'needed' and don't mind starting off a friendship like that at all.  Many people also feel they 'need' a compassionate friend, and are thrilled when someone contacts them out of the blue with exactly what they desire [1].  But you might be sitting in a better position than I was and already have some friends.  You will just have to be honest with them that you are going through a tough time and that you have to have a bit of a deeper relationship than you had with them before.  Tell them that you would like to start sharing more of yourself than you have previously.  Many  people will be thrilled to hear that.  One of the weird things about our society is that just about everyone desires greater connection with other people, but few people seem to know how to do it.  When someone just comes out and says "I'd like to have a deeper connection" this sounds like music to most people's ears; so don't be bashful.  You can also ask family members, of course.  Hopefully your spouse wants to support you in this way.  Do you really like your brother or your sister?  Go for it.  They will even be more willing than friends to go deep with you quickly.

OK, so regardless of how or why you have friends, your task now is to try to set up one hour-long conversation with a friend or family member every day.   Ask each person to talk to you at least once a week,  every two weeks minimum.  For example, make five friends who you talk with every week,  go out on a date one night each week with your partner, and phone your sister one night each week.  Or maybe chat with your best friend four nights a week and go out with your partner three times a week.  This will have to be face to face conversation.  A coffee shop provides a good place for this, or video-chatting with a long-distance friend on Skype (or equivalent) works great too.  Watching TV or a movie with someone doesn't count.  Going out golfing or playing racquetball with them doesn't count.  Going drinking and having a 'great time' doesn't count.  You can pursue a fun activity as a warm-up or cool-down, but make sure you still sit down and connect at a table across from each other at some point.  Don't be hard on yourself if you don't get to the daily-friend thing right away.  It could easily take many months, or even years, before you  find someone to talk to literally every day.  But as long as you have not reached the daily-conversation goal yet, keep trying to make new friends.

The topics of conversation you will try and stick to are: what's going on inside you and what's going on inside your friend.  You need to be able to name your emotions.  You need to be able to ask about someone else's emotions.  You have to discuss, analyze, and gain insight into how your emotions relate to your life, and vice versa.  In order to be able to have these kind insights, you will have to read books that give you a little insight and wisdom about the workings of the mind.  Self-help, psychology, pop-psychology, personality theory, brain science, and other similar books will all help you out tremendously here.  Read anything fun or interesting that will get you thinking about the brain and emotions.  My favorite books describe various aspects and applications of the Enneagram personality theory, and there are lots of those in any bookstore.  But pick what interests you.  Every time you finish a book, just buy a new one that looks appealing or was recommended.  Why?  Consider this: child psychologists found their jobs became much easier helping kids when the movie "Inside Out" came out [2-4].  All of a sudden kids could talk analytically about the relationship between their emotions, their thinking, and their lives using the characters and universe of the movie as a language.  The exact same methods apply to you here (and yes, you can even use that particular movie in your grown-up conversations - I use it myself)

Conversations with Emotions and Self-Reflection

Now let's talk about what happens during an emotionally-supportive meeting with a friend.  Maybe you are feeling bad.  Maybe you have infinite sadness.  You might even be suicidal.  What you need to do is stop the small talk about the weather within five minutes.  State your feeling as soon as possible, as in literally "I am feeling sad today." Then you will try to explore your feelings of why you are feeling sad, how you are dealing with sadness, etc.  With your really good, trusted friends you will probably reveal lots of personal information when you do this.  With not-so-close friends that haven't earned your complete trust yet or will never do so, you can just talk about your feelings without getting into personal details.  Talking about the feelings is what's important.  Feel free to outwardly express your feelings with any emotional outburst you like, but that is not required.  Analyzing them will be what's important.  Explore your feelings as much as you can; analyze them using the ideas from books you have read, or movies you have seen, as much as you can.  Talk about previous times you have felt this way.  Talk about how other people make you feel this way.  Talk about the ways you feel like this that have nothing to do with other people.  Talk about your childhood, and makes guesses as to how those events affect your feelings today.  Whatever pops into mind.  Whatever the latest book you have read suggests.  Whatever your all-time favorite book suggests.  Explore.  Talk.  Use your intuition.  Make it about your feelings and self-reflection.  Maybe you think your feelings are complete bullshit that you use to manipulate other people.  Doesn't matter.  Manipulate away.

I know your friend isn't (likely) a therapist.  They are listening to you and responding, but they might not be saying the right things or listening in the right way.  That's OK.  You are going to train them.  So the next part of the meeting will be you asking them about their feelings.  Besides just training them in how to really listen, this is also the process of making good friends with them and encouraging them to care for you.  Then they will be useful for you in your healing journey and in your escape plan.  Does it sound shocking to you that I am telling you that you are using these people?  Absolutely the only reason you have for making a friend right now is to try and get help escaping insanity.  That is totally OK.  And your friends would be totally OK with this too; people are pretty understanding of those trying to escape insanity.  Besides, even if your conscious mind is suspicious of your own motives, your unconscious will be still making the true friendship.  However, you should end the friendship when someone literally has no in interest in hearing about your feelings, or invalidates your feelings every time, or otherwise indicates they never want to talk about feelings.  Ditch them and make another friend.

So now you ask them about their feelings.  The most important thing you must do is validate their feelings [5,6].  Tell them it is totally understandable to feel like that.  Even if you don't think you would feel the same way in their situation, try to see their point of view and why they feel this way.  Try to empathize.  Repeat their feelings back to them.  Tell them how their feelings and experiences make you feel.  Do not offer them advice unasked.   Do not try to fix the situation or offer solutions.  Do not say "You are overreacting."  Do not say "Don't feel that way."  Do not say "Things aren't so bad as you think."    Do not say "Things will get better."  Listen.  Learn.  Stay out of their business, unless they explicitly ask you for help doing something or explicitly ask you for some advice.  Try to sympathize.  If they are having an emotional meltdown because they put a stamp on crooked, try to empathize how horrible it would be for them for that to have happened.  Do not even think "They are over-reacting."  Think instead "How can I support this person who clearly needs help?"  If they are complaining about people, take their side.  Agree how terribly other people have treated them - as long as they are talking about feelings.  If they start spouting facts, arguments, stories, and injustices, however, don't let them away with it; specifically challenge them to name their feelings.  You are not there to hear their complaints about how unfair the universe is and how everything is someone else's fault; you are there to hear about their feelings (even if they think like this.)   Use your intuition.   Lend them the book(s) you have read that are really on your mind at the moment, or seem that would be particularly useful to them in their particular situation (buy yourself multiple copies of your favourite book if you have lots of friends and can afford it).  You should only end a friendship if either they monopolize the entire time talking about themselves, they refuse to talk about their feelings, or they refuse to read any of the books you lend them.

If you view yourself as an emotional person, you may have been rolling your eyes during the last paragraph.  I'm sure you have much better emotional skills than I do.  Instead, your challenge is coming up with the  insights and self-reflection about those feelings  [7] - and more generally about the brain, the mind, and insanity based on the books you are reading [8].   Just because you think of yourself as an emotional person doesn't mean you aren't as smart as anyone else.  If you don't feel confident, just start off by asking the other person what their insights are about the book and how it applies to your situation and feelings.  They can teach you how to do it.  If they are also uncertain, just start with questions.  Which ideas in this book apply to me? You?  Where do I see them playing out in my daily life or thinking? You?  How well does trying out the ideas in the book work for me? You?  What is the main take-away from the book that I will actually use or remember?  You?  Does the book give me better insight into why do I do the things I do and why I think the things I think?  You?  Be critical.  If the ideas in it are crappy say so! ..........................................   And you will think of much better questions to discuss than I have come up with.   Do not tell you friend that you have never heard their idea, that they shouldn't have any of their own ideas, or that their idea isn't what you heard your professor/teacher/therapist say;  the whole point is to come up with new ideas about yourselves and validate them.  Your intuition will guide you and your friend to discuss the right things that are needed for you two in your situations.  

A good model for a typical conversation is one half hour of one person talking about their feelings and analyzing their feelings and thoughts, while the other validates those feelings - followed by another half hour with the roles reversed.  That's it.  If you have at least several conversations like that a week you will survive.  Life might not be fun, but you will get through.  When you or your friend are feeling terrible, concentrate on the emotional support and don't worry about how much introspection you get in. 

Also, you will quite quickly realize how simplistic all my descriptions about emotional communication and emotional processing are in this book;  you will develop much deeper understandings than I have.  Also, you will quite quickly realize how simplistic all my descriptions about the mechanisms of insanity are in this book;  you will develop much deeper understandings than I have.  Maybe you will even decide I am wrong, and that you have better ideas.  Perfect!  You are on exactly the right track! 

Having these friends and these emotionally supportive meetings will get you through your survival period, before you have done healing or before the healing you have done has taken effect.  You may feel terrible emotions like sadness, loneliness, anxiety, paranoia, etc.  I feel for you.  I have felt those in seemingly infinite amounts.  If you have insanity you may be getting strong messages from your unconscious to commit suicide, or harm yourself, or harm someone else, or just sit around and do drugs, or pursue some dangerous activity.  You have to resist all this crap.  Talking this stuff out with your friends will help a lot.  In fact it is critical.  You just need to sit tight with some emotional support to keep you alive and well until the healing starts to take effect in your brain.  


You now have people who will help you in your healing journey.

You now have people who will help you in your escape plan.

By the way, do you have a therapist?  That's great, if so.  They can really help you with the survival phase and the healing phase (but they are not someone you can use in your escape plan).  You should evaluate whether they are good for you or not, though.  Do they get you to talk about your feelings and always validate them?  Perfect!  Otherwise, ditch them and find a new therapist.  

Do you go to psychiatrist because you are suffering from some insanity?  Never agree with them that any of your thinking is 'delusional' (you don't have to argue with them, just laugh at them in your head if you like).  Although it is helpful to realize some of your stranger thoughts do not describe real things in objective reality, also realize that the strangest thoughts you have also give you the best clues on how to escape.  But if you get sucked into the denunciation sessions of typical psychiatrists you might get trapped forever.  Never feel bad about your thoughts, rather celebrate them as showing you the path to your recovery.  Try and take the right amount of drugs for you.  Either too little or too much dosage could hinder you following the steps in this book.  Work with you psychiatrist to find the right drug for you, one that doesn't have side effects as worse or worse than your insanity.  Don't cycle through going on and going off your drugs.   Change your doses very, very slowly (buy a pill cutter) and aim for a constant dose. 

During this phase of the journey you become the Questioner-Feeler.  Much of this survival phase will involve pondering, asking questions about what happened to your mind and why, without receiving any answers [9].  Much of this survival phase will be a process of learning to sit in hard emotions and feelings, and appreciate them rather than resent them [10].  You and your friends will create the safe space and permission for these processes to happen, in spite of the silly way the rest of our society behaves.

from “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab, copyright 2018

On to Chapter 3

Many people do not have close friends anymore

[1] " the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. 'Zero' is also the most common response when people are asked how many confidants they have" time.com/3748090/friends-social-health/

Inside Out

[2] " The collaboration between the movie’s writers and these two leading experts on emotions created a wonderful tool that clinicians can use to explain emotions to children and adolescents and their parents. It distills complex concepts from neuroanatomy and personality psychology into accessible and fun characters" ct.counseling.org/2016/03/using-inside-out-to-discuss-emotions-with-children-in-therapy/
[3] "Though defiantly unscientific, Inside Out, it turns out, is filled with genuine insight on child emotional development 'I've never seen a movie like this that talks about the brain and the emotional part of the brain in kids," said Dr. Fadi who was struck by the chaotic interplay between Riley's emotional components: 'You can be angry and sad at the same time. You can be happy and afraid. Those emotions are very difficult for kids to understand.'" www.newsweek.com/what-do-child-psychiatrists-think-pixars-wondrous-inside-out-347114
[4] "What I didn't expect was how valuable I'd find the movie to be, both as an academic who studies an aspect of early childhood emotion development and as a parent.  It provides an accessible and memorable framework for understanding some rather complex ideas" www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-musical-self/201506/5-difficult-concepts-made-easier-disneys-inside-out

Validating someone's feelings

[5] "Validation of feelings is vital to connecting with others. The mutual validation of feelings is important in all phases of relationships including building, maintaining, repairing, and improving them. To validate someone's feelings is first to accept someone's feelings - and then to understand them - and finally to nurture them. To validate is to acknowledge and accept a person. bpdfamily.com/content/communication-skills-dont-be-invalidating
[6] "Relationships that are the most successful are those where both partners share their inner world with one another — their real thoughts, feelings and desires — and where their partner, in turn, is able to really hear them. When you share a validating style of interacting together, you build trust and intimacy. These are the bonds that make relationships last." www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-kellogg-psy-d/relationship-advice_b_2127394.html

Introspection and self-reflection

[7] "Introspection and reflection are all about getting to know yourself at the core, uncovering your values and then deciding for yourself what’s the best action to take. You take the power away from the way you’ve been conditioned, away from the systems that try to hold you in place and bring your focus of control back to where it belongs, within.  In doing this you’ll uncover a lot of resistance. Both internally and from family and friends. After all, you’re gracefully bowing out from the way most people process the world. This liberation comes with uncertainty, but also a newfound sense of freedom and purpose. By taking the time to become an expert of yourself first you have the power to make decisions that make you feel good. By cultivating a bond of understanding you bring your dream life within reach. No more stumbling, no more feeling lost." expertenough.com/2990/the-lost-art-of-introspection-why-you-must-master-yourself

Analyzing books

[8] OK, apparently no one on the internet wants you to read a book and analyze it.  But isn't that what they teach you in school?  So I'm assuming it's just that people think it's not fun.  Well, you are now an adult and analyzing a book that pertains to your own brain and your own life is now quite enjoyable.  Try it ... it isn't just me being a geek, all my friends like it too!

The wisdom of the Questioner-Feeler

[9] "Questioning is the art of learning. Learning to ask important questions is the best evidence of understanding there is, far surpassing the temporary endorphins of a correct 'answer.'" - www.teachthought.com/critical-thinking/why-questions-are-more-important-than-answers/
[10] "In a world that values facts, science, and measuring progress through objective means, we have cut off a large part of our natural wisdom in the form of emotions. Emotions are hard. They are messy. Some of them do not feel good and there is a value placed on happiness, engaging us in an internal struggle with the deeper darker feelings and whether they are acceptable to even have, nevermind sit with or share with others. Emotions are the wisdom of the body." - Catherine Lewis, "Understanding and Freeing the Self," Masters Thesis, Naropa University
Agree or disagree?
Agree or disagree?
Chapter Two

At this time you may like to do a little doodle below to express how you are feeling:

Choose Colour

Me trying to process being trapped in insanity for five years:


from “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab, copyright 2018

Chapter 3