Created By: RaustBD on November 8, 2011 Last Edited By: RaustBD on January 20, 2012

Sane on the Inside

A person is mentally unstable, but still totally rational and sound-minded with reference to what he/she thinks is happening

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Let's say Bob is seeing things. Hearing things. He might in fact be completely and totally disconnected from what's actually going on around him, hearing voices in his head, and all of that stuff.

And yet, in reference to his percieved reality, Bob is perfectly sane, stable and rational. The voice in his head tells him to kill his wife, he tells it to shut up and remember just who owns this mental space. He's not paranoid, rash, violent, or panicky.

Bob is, in other words, Sane On The Inside: A perfectly functional and sane person wrapped in a shell of mental delusions.

There are two main types of this:

TYPE 1: The person is insane, but catches on to this fact and actively attempts to fight against it by attempting to distinguish what's real from what isn't.

TYPE 2: The person is insane and does NOT realize it. However, while all of the information he's getting is completely incorrect, what he does with this incorrect information is perfectly reasonable. If you were actually in the situation this person thinks he's in, you'd be doing a lot of the same things.

This trope is extremely common whenever the main character is at all insane, especially in video games.


  • In Penumbra, when Philip's infected with the virus, he starts hearing voices from an entity named Clarence. Clarence actively messes with his head, making him hallucinate and the like, but Philip himself is still completely and totally sane.

  • In the second Bioshock game there's a scene where you play as a Little Sister which reveals they see everything through a filter that makes the city of Rapture appear as a Crapsaccharine World and presumably still think like a perfectly normal child would.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • November 8, 2011
    Good but needs examples.
  • November 9, 2011
    • In the second Bioshock game there's a scene where you play as a Little Sister which reveals they see everything through a filter that makes the city of Rapture appear as a Crapsaccharine World and presumably still think like a perfectly normal child would.
  • November 9, 2011
    Anime and Manga:

    Live Action Television:
    • In an episode of Deep Space Nine, Sisko is tormented by visions of different versions of reality, which leads him to create what appears to everyone else as a Room Full Of Crazy.
  • November 9, 2011
    Schizophrenia's symptoms are split into positive and negative symptoms. The positive symptoms are the hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. According to the Other Wiki the negative symtoms are the ones that cause functional impairment so this could be Truth In Television.

    Though maybe schizophrenia doesn't cause the kind of hallucinations you're talking about.
  • November 9, 2011
    • The Wheel Of Time is very good with this. Rand in particular undergoes severe Sanity Slippage throughout the series, making irrational decisions and ignoring crucial advice, and most significantly, hearing voices. But in the scenes written from his perspective, everything he does seems logical and even necessary, and of course he has no reason to doubt that a voice he can hear clearly and over which he can exercise no control is real.
  • November 10, 2011
    Related to Obfuscating Insanity? I read your description and just had to think of this.
  • November 10, 2011
    No, this is real "insanity" (although, an individual that can function in society would strictly be classified as "sane").

    In A Beautiful Mind, the protagonist is schizophrenic suffering all the aforementioned "positive symptoms". But he remains rational in the sense that he acts the same way any of us would if we didn't know we were halucinating.
  • November 10, 2011
    • In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet pretends to be crazy and sometimes it seems he may be going crazy while he still has flashes of lucidity.
  • November 10, 2011
    In Twelve Monkeys, there's another patient at the asylum who describes himself as "mentally divergent" who appears to be this. He describes himself as having delusions of living on another planet in his mind that is completely convincing. He seems to be mostly rational other than that. (Arguably, applies to Cole himself, depending on interpretation, but most likely not.)
  • November 10, 2011
    ^ That one needs a few more weasel-words. Let me try:
    • In some productions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the character of Hamlet has gone completely crazy, but when he has an Aside Comment, the actor reverts to sane behavior.
  • November 10, 2011
    On the Portal comic, Doug Rattman is schizophrenic, and constantly conversates with the Companion Cube, however withing his paranoia he was still able to diferentiate between real dangerl (G La DOS) and some of his hallucinations, as well as evaluate risks whenever he moved within the installation and evade the Death Traps, in fact, the one time he decides to take his medication a turret shots him on the leg... He Gets Better
  • November 10, 2011
    ^ I think the point of this trope is supposed to be that the person can't distinguish the hallucinations, and is responding in a way that would be sane if the hallucinations were real.
  • November 11, 2011
    There'd be two different tropes:
    • Can tell they are crazy. React rationally to it, distinguishing the hallucinations from the real thing.
    • Can't tell they are crazy. React rationally to the hallucinations as if they were real.

    In both cases, there's a problem with their perceptions, but in the first case they can distinguish imaginary from real ones. The opposite of both would be a character who percieves things properly but their thinking is downright wrong. The Knight Templar is a typical example, as is The Fundamentalist. Same with The Eeyore and The Pollyanna.
  • November 11, 2011
    The first one could be played with easily. There was a Batman Beyond episode where Bruce started hearing voices. The end of the episode revealed that he never felt he was crazy, because the voices called him Bruce, not Batman.
  • November 11, 2011
    ^ In that example, he wasn't crazy because he was able to discern that the voices weren't real. He doesn't call himself Bruce.

    • In the Buffy The Vampire Slayer seventh season episode "Same Time, Same Place", a spell makes it so the Scoobies can't see Willow and she can't see them. They end up in the basement of the high school talking to crazy Spike. His conversation appears insane and rambling at first (par for the course) until you learn that Willow and the Scoobies are there at the same time talking to him and it's only halfway through the conversation that Spike twigs to the fact that "Everybody's talking to me, no one's talking to each other."
  • November 12, 2011
    Possible page quote (Type 2):
    A madman is as logical and reasoned in his actions as a sane man -- given his peculiar biased point of view. For example, if a man insists on going out and squatting about in nothing but a loin cloth his conduct seems eccentric in the extreme. But once you know that the man himself is firmly convinced that he is Mahatma Gandhi, then his conduct becomes perfectly reasonable and logical."
  • November 14, 2011
    ^ That's PERFECT.

    EDIT: Actually, it kinda implies that ALL crazy people are like this.
  • November 16, 2011
    There's A Method To The Madness?
  • November 16, 2011
    Red vs. Blue. Oh, Caboose...
  • November 16, 2011
    I'm note entirely sure if Caboose counts. Caboose's mental image struck me more as how he saw himself, not his actual mind. He's also utterly clueless to the blatant inconsistencies in his own mind.
  • November 16, 2011
    Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni. It helps that almost everyone including the main character is insane at some point or another.
  • January 18, 2012
  • January 19, 2012
    On the two different tropes subject - John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) (spoilers) starts out in the 'can't tell they are crazy, reacts rationally' and progresses into 'can tell they are crazy, reacts rationally' over the course of the film.
  • January 20, 2012
    In Mockingjay, Peeta ends up Brainwashed And Crazy by way of being tortured by the Capitol with tracker jacker venom that has a hallucinogenic effect. However, later on, he catches on to the fact that he's psychologically unwell and makes an effort to try and fix this by way of a game called "Real or Not Real", in which he'll tell Katniss something he perceives and asks her if it's real or not real, which she'll confirm for him.