We’ve all seen a movie where the heroine has gone through some incredible, extraordinary, beyond belief, set of circumstances and some how ends up in a mental health setting, interviewed by an incredulous doctor. My favorite is The Terminator series.
When we watch the heroine tell the story, we easily identify with her, after all, we’ve seen everything she’s seen and can understand why she did everything she did. As the story comes out, we shake our heads, knowing the doctor’s response ahead of time.
Looking at it from the doctor’s perspective, its usually pretty clear why they inevitably make the decisions they do. But let’s see it the doctors way, and say everything she described, was an hallucination. Even if it was, what remains is that, in the context of the hallucination, everything she said and did oddly made sense. In other words, she’s sane in the context of the hallucination. None of it may be real, sky net, the terminator, Kyle Reese, her fate to be the mother of John Connor, but her actions, thoughts, and motivations, all make sense within her story.
Ok though, Sarah Connor’s story was real in that movie, so maybe the point doesn’t make a whole lot of sense yet. Alright then, let’s consider another great movie where we find out the main character was having an hallucination, Fight Club.
Now, in this case, we don’t find out that narrator’s friend Tyler is actually an hallucination until the end, so its easy to follow his thoughts and actions during the course of the movie, and see how they make sense. His conversations with Tyler all make sense, his thoughts and actions can all be followed during the movie, so that even if they take a more and more extreme direction, we can at least comprehend why he thinks the way he thinks and does what he does.
When we find out in the end, that Tyler Duren is an hallucination, and the narrator is Tyler Durden, it changes the way we view the whole story. But up until that point, we see him as relatively sane. It’s only when we remove the context, and see the narrator talking to himself, throwing punches at himself, etc, that we truly see him as insane.
In other words, for nearly all of the movie, the main character, until we took away the illusion, the character was sane in the context of the hallucination.
Now, in real life, we don’t see and hear a person’s hallucinations, we only hear the story they tell, so its easy to turn off, hearing about aliens, god, spirits, the cia, whatever it may be, but it some sense, this misses, that within the context of the hallucination, the person’s thoughts, actions, and feelings might have oddly made sense.