Created By: Idler20 on February 3, 2011

Have I Gone Insane?

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Trope
There are a number of ways that characters can react to apparent encounters with the supernatural or otherwise out-there. Often, they won't be willing to accept it right away, and their minds will wander to, usually, three different explanations:

This trope is about the third one of those explanations.

Distinct from a Cuckoo Nest plot in that those usually involve the character being told that their entire life (or at least a large part of it) was fake, whereas in this trope, they believe that they've only lost it recently. If the person actually is insane, but the audience still sees what they're seeing, it's Through the Eyes of Madness. If you never find out whether they're sane or not, that's Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.

Examples:

  • This seems to be the premise of the upcoming film Take Shelter: the protagonist is receiving apparently prophetic visions, but knows that his family has a history of mental illness, leaving him unsure as to whether or not to act on what he sees.
  • In Wonderfalls, Jaye warns Eric at their first meeting that "I might be clinically insane". Though she doesn't explain as much, this worry is brought on by the fact that inanimate objects have been talking to her. She quickly comes to the conclusion that she's not insane, though.
Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • February 3, 2011
    Grandy
    In Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, marston will sometimes mutter (or yell) to himself 'I must be dreaming' or 'have I got insane'. He may also say 'sometimes, I think I've been drugged.', which is a reaction not in your list.
  • February 11, 2011
    TBeholder
    • "We Damn The Night" by Helloween.
      Blood on my pillow
      Blood on my skin
      Am I going mad
      Or was this a dream?

  • February 11, 2011
    brogaglas
    Phineas And Ferb's hour-long special Summer Belongs to You includes a similar reaction from Candace as Phineas gets the kids engaged in another ambitious project.
    Candace: Have I taken crazy pills?!
  • February 12, 2011
    Arivne
  • February 12, 2011
    brogaglas
    Played with in Zoolander when the villain Mugatu sarcastically asks if he's been taking "crazy pills" during his Villainous Breakdown. This would be a straight use of the trope if Mugatu had been sane at any other time.
  • March 5, 2011
    TBeholder
  • March 6, 2011
    Puck
    Used in the Firefly episode, "Jaynestown": Simon, on seeing a statue of the crew's resident Jerkass, "This must be what going mad feels like!"
  • April 16, 2011
    TBeholder
    • Something To Grin About by Lawrence Watt-Evans starts this way - lady was visited by a talking cat, so...
  • April 16, 2011
    TwoGunAngel
    Simon ends up saying this again after discovering that not only do they have a statue of Jayne, but they've even written a song about him.
    Simon: No...this must be what going mad feels like.
  • May 4, 2011
    TBeholder
    • In one of side stories of Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei the protagonist is told by a fellow passenger to look out of the train window, where sees one of his old repeating dreams. He asks about whether the rum was spiked with LSD, though by this time he was ready to take "why to spoil good rum?" as an argument.
  • May 6, 2011
    TBeholder
  • May 15, 2011
    TBeholder
    • In How I Edited An Agricultural Paper by Mark Twain one man was convinced he gone insane after reading the narrator's articles, but dropped in to check whether they say what he did read, just in case.
  • May 16, 2011
    Bisected8
    In Futurama, when Leela first encounters the Brainspawn (giant, floating brains) she states (keeping in mind despite the quote, she's the Only Sane Man);
    "Have I gone insane? Have my years of hedonism finally caught up with me?"
  • May 25, 2011
    TBeholder
    See also You Imagined It
  • May 25, 2011
    jaytee
    In US Life On Mars, the lead chracter comes up with a long list of reasons why he might have appeared in 1973 after being struck by a car. The possibility that he's crazy is mentioned.
  • June 30, 2011
    TBeholder
    • Girl Genius had a scene when Agatha thought she's dreaming just because a cat was talking to her. Of course, the cat jawed her for this.
  • January 2, 2012
    TBeholder
    bump?
  • January 2, 2012
    Psychobabble6
    Wow. This is so old that there aren't any "no stock phrases" comments.
  • January 2, 2012
    Andygal
    can we retool this as an actual trope or should it just be dumped?
  • January 2, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    ^A character witnesses something that's clearly out of the norm. They react by seriously considering that it's more likely they are no longer sane than the event is actually occuring.

    Sounds like a trope to me. The name will never fly with Fast Eddie, so we'd have to come up with a new one and three examples.
  • January 2, 2012
    scatterclubs
  • January 3, 2012
    Arivne
    If anyone else is around, the character may ask them You Can See That Right?
  • January 13, 2012
    TBeholder
    ^^^^^ How is it a stock phrase?
  • January 13, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ It "sounds" like dialogue, or it is likely to seem to. The effort to avoid this leaves us with long titles like those suggested by scatterclubs above.
  • January 13, 2012
    Psychobabble6
    ^^ It was just a poorly worded statement, but the sentiment still stands. I meant that there are no "No Dialogue Titles" comments.
  • January 13, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    ...I don't think a distinction with Cuckoos Nest exists as explained.
  • January 13, 2012
    AP
    • In Sin City, while Heroic Sociopath Marv is on the trail of his lover's killers, he contemplates if the past events were mostly in his head and if he had been killing innocent people. The comic series played up on this more than the movie but in either case, it was a justifiable theory since Marv was already pretty crazy.
  • January 14, 2012
    sliz225
    bump. The original poster needs to start adding examples.
  • January 19, 2012
    Ekuran
    Bump.
  • February 11, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Re-bump
  • February 11, 2012
    elwoz
    The protagonist of Rosemarys Baby spends most of the movie wondering if she's going mad.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump with threat to go ahead and launch.
  • January 19, 2013
    AgProv
    Music: on their last studio LP with Ozzie Osbourne on vocals, Black Sabbath performed a track called Am I Going Insane?. Which, as it was penned by an Osbourne who was by that point somewhere on the far descending side of the sanity curve, was a somewhat redundant question. Shortly after the release of the LP, Ozzie was dropped from the band because he was not only incapable of performing coherently, but was a dangerous liability to his band-mates.

    Everybody's looking at me,
    Feeling paranoid inside
    When I step outside I feel free,
    think I'll find a place to hide
    Tell me people, am I going insane?
    Tell me people, am I going insane?

    Every day I sit and wonder how my life it used to be;
    Now I feel like going under, now my life is hard to see;
    So tell me people, am I going insane?
    Tell me people, am I going insane?

    So I'm telling all you people, listen while I sing again
    If I don't sound very cheerful, I think that I'm a schizo brain
    So tell me people, am I going insane?
    Tell me people, am I going insane?
  • January 19, 2013
    Arivne
    If it's launched with the current title (Have I Gone Insane) it will either be sent back to YKTTW to be renamed or just sent to the Cut List.
  • January 19, 2013
    elwoz
    I personally think the "no stock phrases" rule causes more harm than good, but let's have some alternative suggestions, yeah?
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