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Moment of Lucidity

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Delirium: Dream? What did he tell you?
Dream: Delirium?
Delirium: It's still me.
Dream: But...?
Delirium: If you're going to fall apart, then one of us has to keep this going. Please get up. I don't know how much longer I can be like this. It hurts very muchly.
The Sandman, Issue #47

When a mind is shattered like glass, the pieces don't disappear. Sometimes they come together just enough to reflect what they once were.

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Sometimes when a character has gone insane, loopy, or completely off-their-rocker, an event transpires that causes them to go bone-chillingly sane and rational for the briefest of moments. Perhaps something reminded them of their past and who they used to be, or someone managed to talk sense into them for a change. The length of this moment can vary, sometimes to the extent that they can be reasoned with, but a relapse into craziness typically follows soon after.

The Mad Prophet may be subject to this, as might someone undergoing O.O.C. Is Serious Business if they're known for being crazy. This trope may also be the result of someone Fighting from the Inside, or come about as a result of someone giving the character a Last-Second Chance. The lapse back into insanity can sometimes be caused by an Interrupted Cooldown Hug.

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If this occurs on a character's deathbed, that's Dying as Yourself, referred to as "terminal lucidity" on The Other Wiki. When the character was only pretending to be insane in the first place, that's Obfuscating Insanity. See also Bored with Insanity.

Sister Trope to Ignored Epiphany, which is about an evil or morally grey character briefly contemplating the error of their ways.

Not to be confused with Sanity Ball, but could be compared with Smart Ball.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the final chapter of Kara no Kyoukai, when Mikiya confronts the Arc Villain Lio Shirazumi, whose mind has, by that point, been completely overtaken by cannibalistic urges, the villain shows a rare moment of lucidity to talk with him and muses that it may actually be Mikiya's calming presence that gave him this one last moment of clear thinking.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In "Master", Victor Schaeffer has been unveiled as the serial killer murdering the prostitutes and, after realizing that his wife Jacqueline is in love with John Smith, suffers a complete breakdown. In the aftermath of Death's rampage across the house, the Doctor, John and Jacqueline confront Victor and seem to break through his psychopathic delusions for a while, almost managing to persuade him into accepting their help. Unfortunately, Jacqueline can't bring herself to lie about who she truly loves, prompting him to slip back into madness and murder her. For good measure, the breakdown of Victor's lucidity is so disastrous that the grief of seeing his sweetheart die ends John's ten-year lucid streak and causes him to transform back into the Master.
    • "Unregenerate" features the Doctor having his personality suppressed when one of the Klyst Institute's AIs is accidentally grafted onto his brain. Normally, the Doctor's grafted personality is a gibbering Cloudcuckoolander who can barely string two words together; during an impromptu spacewalk, however, he suddenly calms down and begins providing sensible advice to Mel and the others, gradually descending back into dementia once they find an airlock back inside. It turns out that the Institute's AIs are all from infant TARDIS capsules, and all have gone insane upon being uploaded to other bodies because they can't cope with the sense of confinement and the loss of their old senses; the reason why the Doctor briefly recovered was because the baby TARDIS in his head felt comforted by being back in space for the first time since imprisonment.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Shortly before Batman: Cacophony, Maxie Zeus had gotten his act together off-screen and had been pronounced as sane, rather than believing he's the actual god Zeus. Granted, he's still a criminal, just as Villain with Good Publicity; manufacturing a heavily-diluted version of Joker toxin as a party drug. A vengeance-seeking Joker puts an end to this by blowing up a school bus containing Maxie's beloved nephew right in front of him, leading Maxie to grimly order his nearest minion to "Bring me my toga."
    • At the ending of the same story, Joker is hospitalized from being stabbed in the heart and is doped up on a ludicrous amount of anti-psychotic drugs. Batman takes the opportunity to have a relatively-sane conversation with him, opening up to his Arch-Enemy and even explaining in part why he does what he does. It's subverted slightly in that while Joker is lucid, he's still a sociopathic killer who won't rest until one or both of them is dead.
      Joker: I imagine, in your head, you saw this visit as a change to work on the nature of our relationship while I'm temporarily not a frothing-at-the-mouth, raving lunatic. You probably saw this visit as a chance for a new beginning. But here's the cold, hard truth, Bats... I don't hate you 'cause I'm crazy... I'm crazy 'cause I hate you.
  • In Justice League storyline "Rock of Ages", Martian Manhunter has to put in incredible effort to reorganize Joker's mind long enough for him to give up the cataclysmic Philosopher's Stone. The briefly sane Joker immediately says My God, What Have I Done? verbatim as he hands it back, before quickly losing his mind and going back to the laughing madman.
  • Another Joker-related example at the end of The Killing Joke. Batman deconstructs the Joker's worldview and pleads with him to allow Batman to rehabilitate him, as they both know full well that their feud will eventually kill them both. For a long, somber moment Joker seriously considers it, then sincerely apologizes as it's too late for the both of them. He then starts to laugh, being reminded of a joke...
  • The Sandman: When Dream has an emotional breakdown at the prospect of talking to his estranged son Orpheus in order to find his long-lost brother Destruction, Delirium wills herself into a moment of lucidity to tell Destiny off and get Dream to pull himself together. Considering she is the Anthropomorphic Personification of madness, her lucid state "hurts very muchly".
    Destiny: It is... refreshing... to see you so collected.
    Delirium: Stick it. Coins have two sides. Destruction told us that, when he told us he was leaving. But I already knew that.
  • Secret Six: When the team is in a heated battle with a large number of superheroes, Mad Hatter spends most of it in his usual oblivious state... until, out of nowhere, something in his addled mind just clicks, at which point he uses his mind control abilities to take down the entire Doom Patrol with one word. Then when the fight is over, he goes right back to being delusional and barely aware of his surroundings.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Wicked fanfic The Land of What Might-Have-Been, the monster known as the Hellion is usually a shrieking, demented Living Doll Collector who's singled out Dorothy Gale as her latest doll - and is prepared to kill anyone to get her hands on her. However, after finally managing to capture Dorothy, for some reason the Hellion can't bring herself to transform her into a doll, and is struck by a rare moment of introspection in which she tearfully asks herself why she can't be happy now that she has everything she's ever wanted. Not long after, though, Elphaba shows up to rescue Dorothy, sending the Hellion flying into possessive rage all over again.

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco, Miguel's great-grandmother Coco, who is more than a century old, wheelchair-bound, can barely talk, and often mistakes family members for one another. Her advancing dementia becomes plot important because she's the last living person to still remember her father Héctor, but she's starting to forget, meaning he's going to suffer Final Death in the afterlife unless Miguel can rouse her memory. Miguel just barely manages to get through to her by singing a lullaby that Héctor wrote for Coco when she was a little girl, finally bringing back her memories of him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Beautiful Mind features several of these: after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, John Nash refuses to acknowledge it at first, but once he discovers conclusive proof that his top-secret work was just a fantasy, he agrees to receive treatment. However, he finds the medication too debilitating and secretly gives it up, kicking off a disastrous relapse that nearly results in his infant son drowning. After this, John undergoes an epiphany and decides to return to work at Princeton - again without medication but this time accepting the support of his wife. Unfortunately, the stress of teaching prompts him to suffer a very public breakdown, and it takes a lot of work before he's confident enough to begin making progress again.
  • Over the course of The Cremator, Karl Kopfrkingl's sanity has been circling the plughole as his obsession with death deepens and his desire for status becomes entangled with the rise of Nazism in Prague; this ultimately comes to a head when he murders his half-Jewish wife, then begins hallucinating a Buddhist monk proclaiming Karl the new Dalai Lama. Officiating at his wife's funeral, Karl seems much more lucid, even regretful... right up until he notices the Nazi officials in the congregation alongside the Pale Girl, and suddenly his eulogy turns political as he begins screaming about the certainty of "the Fuhrer's New Europe." Minutes later, Karl murders his son and tries to do the same to his daughter, before being escorted by the hallucinatory monk to "the throne in Lhasa" - really a Nazi death camp where Karl has been put in charge of the crematoria.
  • The Descent: having lost her grip on sanity over the course of the film following numerous battles with the Crawlers, Sarah experiences one of these after managing to escape the caverns at the end of the film - only to wake up back in the cave a moment later. As it turns out, the entire escape was just a delusion. For a few seconds, she seems to comprehend reality again; then she sees her daughter sitting across from her with a birthday cake. Sarah smiles back at her... and then the camera pulls back to reveal that she's alone, smiling vacantly at her torch, and the Crawlers are closing in...
  • Shutter Island climaxes with Andrew Laeddis finally breaking though his layers of delusions and acknowledging that he isn't really US Marshal Teddy Daniels, that his conspiracy theory has been a fantasy, and that he murdered his wife after she drowned their children. However, the film ends with him apparently regressing back into his old delusions, though it's hinted that he's faking insanity so that the doctors will be forced to lobotomize him for the safety of the other patients.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs, a Yeerk which becomes sick, or dies, while still attached to a controller's brain, can leave their host permanently disabled as their neurons no longer connect to each other properly. In one book, a controller granted a few seconds of free will chooses to fling an office chair through his 30th story window and jump to his death rather than continue with an insane brain slug in his head.
  • Late in Colony, hitman Paulo San Pablos AKA Mr Pink Socks has been driven completely insane by his transformation into an extremely clunky cyborg, and goes on a killing spree that only relents when he finally manages to catch up with his original target, Eddie O'Hare. During their final conversation, Paulo admits that he took a stomach from one of his victims, at the time believing that he could somehow incorporate it into himself so he could eat again, and seems genuinely confused at the deluded reasoning behind this move. Thinking that Pink Socks is on the verge of an epiphany, Eddie suggests that he can be helped if he just turns himself in... only for Paulo to slip back into murderous rage and go on the attack.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In The Devil's Foot, Holmes and Watson deliberately inhale a substance Holmes suspects was responsible for the two murders, although he does take the precaution of using only a small amount, leaving the door and window open, and having each man face the other in case an intervention is needed. But the stuff was stronger than Holmes suspected, and Watson's vivid description of the hallucinations starts veering into Cosmic Horror Story. Only the sight of Holmes' equally-anguished face is enough to break Watson out of his trance and drag them both outside.
    I had hardly settled in my chair before I was conscious of a thick, musky odour, subtle and nauseous. At the very first whiff of it my brain and my imagination were beyond all control. A thick, black cloud swirled before my eyes, and my mind told me that in this cloud, unseen as yet, but about to spring out upon my appalled senses, lurked all that was vaguely horrible, all that was monstrous and inconceivably wicked in the universe. Vague shapes swirled and swam amid the dark cloud-bank, each a menace and a warning of something coming, the advent of some unspeakable dweller upon the threshold, whose very shadow would blast my soul. A freezing horror took possession of me. I felt that my hair was rising, that my eyes were protruding, that my mouth was opened, and my tongue like leather. The turmoil within my brain was such that something must surely snap. I tried to scream and was vaguely aware of some hoarse croak which was my own voice, but distant and detached from myself.
    At the same moment, in some effort of escape, I broke through that cloud of despair and had a glimpse of Holmes' face, white, rigid, and drawn with horror—the very look which I had seen upon the features of the dead. It was that vision which gave me an instant of sanity and of strength. I dashed from my chair, threw my arms round Holmes, and together we lurched through the door, and an instant afterwards had thrown ourselves down upon the grass plot and were lying side by side, conscious only of the glorious sunshine which was bursting its way through the hellish cloud of terror which had girt us in.
  • In The Stand, one characteristic of the superflu is that victims of the disease often start having hallucinations and delusions. In a chapter called "The Magic Hour", dying superflu victim Vic Palfrey briefly snaps back to lucidity and takes stock of what is going on, before slipping back into hallucinations again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the season 3 finale of Boardwalk Empire, the dangerously-unstable Gyp Rosetti plunges to new depths of insanity after he's abandoned by his boss, outmaneuvered by Nucky Thompson and driven out of his own base by Richard Harrow. In the throes of a Villainous Breakdown, he parrots back Nucky's words to him from the start of the season, then starts miming glasses (while still holding a loaded gun) and screamingly proclaims himself "Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes." For a moment, Gyp looks as though he's about to kill one of the last three henchmen he has left... then he calms down. As he puts together an almost-plausible plan to start over in a smaller community, things appear to be looking up for his sanity - right up until he starts singing the Barney Google song in an increasing demented voice. And then Tonio knifes him in the back.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: Matthew's fiance Ingrid gets bitten by a rabid dog and soon the symptoms of the disease develop: she screams and moves about uncontrollably, she's afraid of water and she doesn't recognize anybody. When her death is near, she regains lucidity and is again like her own self. Matthew comes to her to say goodbye and they have a metaphorical wedding.
  • Farscape:
    • Left dangerously unstable by years of unrelenting trauma, Talyn goes off the deep end in "I-Yensch You-Yensch" and blows up a hospital ship in a fit of paranoia, then tries to kill Moya - his own mother - when it looks like her crew are considering switching him off. It takes a heartfelt talk from Aeryn to finally calm him down and make him realize that he needs help; eventually, he allows Crais to switch him off in preparation for a full system reset - the only possible cure at that point.
    • Stark has spent most of the second-to-fourth seasons growing steadily loopier as personal tragedies stack up, and in The Peacekeeper Wars, having to absorb a piece of Hierarch Yondalao's soul appears to have left him catatonic. In the wake of the battle aboard the Decimator, however, he suddenly begins providing unusually rational explanations and seems much calmer for a while - apparently due to carrying around the the knowledge of how to use Yondalao's peace-imbuing powers. After transferring the knowledge to the other Eidolons, he doesn't quite go back to normal, but he's still pretty eccentric and prone to panicking under fire. However, the experience eventually allows him to achieve inner peace, the energy rift behind his mask sealing shut in the process.
  • Father Ted: In ""Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading"", Father Jack briefly comes out of his alcoholic stupor, only to realize he's still trapped on that feckin' island.
  • Hannibal: In "Buffet Froid", the Killer Of The Week is discovered hiding at the crime scene and flees, but not before Will Graham tries to ground her in the moment by saying "if you can hear me, you're alive." As it turns out, the killer is Georgia Madchen, a terminally-diseased woman suffering from an inability to recognize faces and the delusion that she is already dead, and Will's entreaty apparently stirred something in her... because she spends the rest of the episode stalking him, and murders his neurologist after getting the two mixed up. Eventually, Georgia turns up at Will's house in a state of exhaustion, allowing him to finally get though to her with a You Are Not Alone speech, and the episode concludes with her in custody, receiving treatment. And then it turns out Georgia wasn't really the one who killed the neurologist, but merely Hannibal's patsy.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look has a sketch about an elderly Sherlock Holmes who is stricken with dementia until he gets a very brief moment of self-awareness. It was meant to be a satire on comedy shows that use pathos to win awards but, whatever the intention, the ending is still an absolute tearjerker.
    "...I know, John... I do know. I can't get this fog to clear..."
  • Space: 1999. In the episode "Death's Other Dominion", the Moon passes by a planet which is the refuge of a human space expedition presumed lost many years before. The expedition's former leader, Colonel Jack Tanner, is now a prancing, Shakespearean fool prone to making cryptic comments and issuing dire warnings. The Alphans disregard what he says as the babbling of a madman until he reveals to Koenig that his condition is the result of a sinister experiment (for which he volunteered).
    Koenig: Right now you're as sane as I am.
    Tanner: It comes and goes. It comes and goes...

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Arakune is normally an insane Eldritch Abomination who Was Once a Man but had Gone Mad From The Revelation. In the second game, when his old friend Litchi confronts him, he has a brief moment of sanity, telling her to not pursue him, not corrupt herself with the same thing that corrupted him, and to seek Prof. Kokonoe for help. He goes mad again shortly afterward.
  • Dead Space 2: been driven almost completely insane by his exposure to the Marker, Isaac Clarke finds himself confronted by his hallucination of Nicole one last time, during which she demands to know why she's still haunting him and why he can't just let her go. In the end, Isaac finally confesses that without her, he has nothing left; with this, he finally reaches step four - Acceptance - and his symptoms abate. However, they're merely dormant: once he gets back in close proximity with the Marker, he starts hallucinating again.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: After Monika corrupts the game and turns Yuri into a Yandere, Yuri still has moments where she realizes she's going crazy. At the end, she even points out that there's something wrong with her, as if she notices that she's acting out-of-character.
  • Caligula's madness within Fate/Grand Order is explained as being a "gift" from the Moon goddess Diana, leading him to be summoned as a Berserker-class Servant. However, it is possible for him to loose it depending on the situation like in the Prison Tower event, allowing him to act sane. Unfortunately for him, he cannot do much with his moments of lucidity as he is a Berserker, especially when it comes to his niece Nero.
  • The Park: after spending most of the game succumbing to her own burgeoning negative impulses while under Atlantic Island Park's brain-warping atmosphere, Lorraine finally manages to recover enough of her sanity to realize that Callum is only lost in the park because of her neglectful parenting. And then, just as it looks as though she might be able to rescue Callum from the House of Horrors, the Bogeyman literally forces her back into insanity by pressing an icepick into her hand, directing her to an unconscious Callum, then letting her go and allowing the madness Lorraine has accumulated so far to do the rest. For good measure, the sequel mission in The Secret World reveals that Lorraine never recovered from the incident.
  • Spec Ops: The Line: the finale is a moment of lucidity for Captain Walker after spending most of the game slowly losing his mind. After discovering that Colonel Konrad is already dead and the voice on the other end of Walker's radio has been a hallucination all along, Walker is forced to acknowledge that he was responsible for most of the atrocities in the game, that he was being driven by delusions of heroism instead of his orders, and he can no longer blame anyone else for the deaths. How well this moment works is dependent on the player: In the end, Walker can kill himself, provoke the rescue team into killing him, murder the rescue team en mass, or just allow himself to be rescued.
  • Shortly after Otto Octavius demonstrates his mechanical tentacles in Spider-Man PS4, Peter Parker discovers that the tentacles' neural interface runs the risk of driving him insane; Otto already seems a lot more volatile than usual, and when he's encouraged to rethink things, he loses his temper and begins ranting how he no longer feels "like a failure." Fortunately, Peter is able to calm him down by warning him of the possibility of brain damage. However, the moment Peter leaves the lab, Otto happens to see Norman Osborn on TV bragging about how he was responsible for stopping Mr Negative; switching the interface back on, Otto destroys the TV in a fit of rage and vows to get revenge on his old partner once and for all...
  • Resident Evil 5 gives us the Fighting from the Inside version with Jill Valentine, who is under the influence of a mind-controlling serum and forced to attack the heroes against her will. At a certain point in the battle, she manages to fight off the drug's effects long enough to tear open her uniform and reveal a device on her chest keeping her supplied with the serum, showing Chris and Sheva what they'll have to do to save her.
  • In the finale of Until Dawn, a combination of stress, guilt, and withdrawal from antidepressants drives the already-unstable Josh Washington into a breakdown, during which he hallucinates his dead sisters, the pigs he had to butcher earlier, the voices of his friends chiding him, and the Wendigo that kidnapped him. Fortunately, Mike and Sam are able to drag him back to reality with a sharp slap to the face, allowing them to lead him out of the caves. Depending on the player's actions, Josh can remain lucid or give in to madness by the end of the game: if the player never found Hannah Washington's Apocalyptic Log, Josh remains lucid, refusing to believe that the Wendigo is real even as it kills him. However, if Josh learns of what really happened to his sister and recognizes the Wendigo's true identity, Hannah recognizes him in return and captures him alive, leaving Josh alone with his demons in the Cannibal Larder - ultimately paving the way for his transformation into a Wendigo.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Odin is mostly portrayed as a Cloud Cuckoolander who needs his son Thor to take care of him as a result of divine brain damage (Northernmen in a past universe thought magic was for weaklings and gave him, the god of magic, the wrong kind of worship; his recovery has been slow, but there) but in one of his moments of lucidity, he keeps it together enough to explain why it is a net benefit that God's Hands Are Tied.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cry of Mann: Jack and Courtney both suffer Sanity Slippage over the course of the story, with Jack becoming consumed by hatred for his family and the desire to work out excessively. The crazed "Jack Prime" goes and terrorizes his sister, until he notices He's at his brother's funeral. The realization snaps him back to normal long enough for a speech and some snacks... Until Courtney shows up, causing Jack Prime to take over again and join her in creating chaos. They're both snapped out of it for good after Tank Mann comes home, and defeats the evil Gergiev, the source of their madness.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Betty", Ice King is turned back into Simon Petrikov by Bella Noche, restoring his sanity. However, Simon is slowly dying without the crown's power keeping him alive and so they must get the crown's magic back to him before then, much to the dismay of Simon, who says wearing the crown again is like living with eternal diaper rash.
  • Bojack Horseman: For most of the fourth season, Bojack has to care for his dementia-addled mother Beatrice, who doesn't even recognize him anymore, but at the end of the episode "Time's Arrow", she briefly comes out of her mental haze a bit, frightened and confused by her surroundings, asking Bojack where she is. Earlier in the season, Bojack had wanted Beatrice to be lucid so that he could stick it to her one last time for being so cruel and abusive to him all his life, but now that he has the opportunity, he decides to comfort her instead, lying in order to give her one last pleasant memory.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of The Simpsons. The family bemoans the state of the park, and the Crazy Cat Lady comes up and agrees that it's disgraceful. The family is shocked by her eloquence, and she reveals that she "enjoys brief moments of lucidity" thanks to a psychoactive medication. Marge takes a closer look at the pills in her bottle and points out they're merely Reese's Pieces. The Crazy Cat Lady immediately reverts to her gibbering, cat-throwing self.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the Realm of Magic causes anyone who enters to rapidly lose their mind and memories, with the affected becoming nonsensical and forgetting who they are. After finding her mother in the Realm of Magic, Star succumbs to the magic's effects and forgets everything until she finds a note she left for herself to remind her of who she is. Star is able to open a portal to save herself and her mother, though unfortunately forgets once more and the portal closes.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Brothers", Darth Maul is revealed to be Not Quite Dead. The former Sith is less than half the man he used to be — literally — reduced to a spider-legged scavenger on a landfill planet. The experience and his isolation has left him a broken shell barely able to keep his mind in one place, helplessly aware that he's insane, and sustained by little more than The Power of Hate. But when his long-lost brother Savage Opress shows up looking for him, he's reminded of the past until one coldly serious thought surfaces: revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi. He returns to insanity afterward, but he's soon cured of it by the Nightsisters of Dathomir and restored to his former glory.

    Real Life 
  • Some countries recognize the validity of wills made by insane persons if it was redacted in their moments of lucidity.

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