A friend forwarded me the article “On being Sane in Insane Places” by the psychologist David Rosenhan.
This experiment by Rosenhan is about admitting “sane” people to mental institutions: “Finally, it cannot be said that the failure to recognize the pseudopatients’ was due to the fact that they were not behaving sanely. Wile there was clearly some tension present in all of them, their daily visitors could detect no serious behavioral consequences – nor, indeed, could other patients. It was quite common for the patients to ‘detect’ the pseudopatients’ sanity.”
(See more about this paper here.)
The conclusion is that there is no universal standard of sanity. While it may be too easy and too comforting to declare that all insanity is caused by society, it’s clear that an important aspect of sanity is the capability to adjust to other people’s standards. In other words: you have to adapt to the expectations of others and at the same timea provide them with the illusion that you have a unique personality.