Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 98:

“People who fish for food, and sport be damned, are called pot-fishermen. The more expert ones are called crack pot-fishermen.  All other fishermen are called crackpot fishermen.  This is confusing.” 

Ed Zern, 1947

There was a lot of controversy when the Olympics began allowing professional athletes to play in the Games. Up until then the thinking had been that so-called amateurs play sports for the love of the game, whereas professionals did so for money. I don’t think it’s all that cut and dry. Wherever you come down on this dispute it does seems important for all players to love whatever they’re playing or they shouldn’t be playing in the first place.

Nike once ran an ad campaign with the phrase: “Do you have the Love?” Of course their contention was that if you did have the love you’d buy their sportswear. Nevertheless it made a great point. And it applies to all of the things we do. I’ve often quoted the saying: “Love what you do; do what you love.”

Regardless of the professional vs. avocational argument, most would agree that athletes, like everyone else, need to pay the bills. But it still behooves them also to have the Love. I’ll grant you we do overly pay many sports figures outrageous amounts while we’re still debating a minimum wage for a massive amount of regular folks: people having difficulty trying to raise a family with a 40 hours a week job that keeps them below the poverty level.

An ideal job is the one that you would do even if they didn’t pay you to do it, assuming you could afford to do so. If we don’t find any fun within a job or activity we’re doing regularly, then we’re really being one of those crack pots that the above fishing quote mentions.

Old joke:

Q: What do you call the study of psycho-ceramics?  

A: The study of cracked pots.

Speaking of crackpots, here are an assortment of thoughts – musings – on the topic of craziness. They’re not in any particular order, so here goes:

  1. The American Psychiatric Association has The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). This latest addition is the product of over 10 years of effort by experts in all aspects of mental health. In it there are diagnostic descriptions of various psychological disorders, with nuanced sub-descriptions, as well.

I contend we are all a bit crazy. Each one of us is difficult to live with. If you don’t think you are a little bit crazy then you are REALLY crazy. While third-party insurers rely on diagnostic mental labels, I say throw the entire manual out the window. Instead we can simply state that all of us suffer from one common malady: A thought disorder. It is our thinking thoughts that messes us up.

  1. When we go about thinking thoughts and believing these thoughts are true and accurate we get duped. We get hoodwinked. To make things even worse we think these thoughts are Therefore we don’t ever question them. “I thought it, so it must be so.” We think or say our thoughts and then we go about doing a lot of crazy stuff without ever checking to see if this is sane or not. Most of the time, on some level, we know we’re being a bit crazy. Most of the time our crazy actions turn out to be harmless or relatively harmless; but not always.


  1. I tell my buddies we’re all bozos on the bus. It’s meant to be humorous. It’s just a kinder way of reminding us that we are each a bit crazy. I am encouraging us to lighten up. Denial and arrogance are our worst enemies. So is righteousness; which is why we tend to become furious at people who disagrees with us. It’s the same reason some of us can relax only when we are working.


  • To keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is famously called insanity. It is delusional. Crazy. I think people think this applies to everyone else; just not them. We sometimes get on a tread mill believing whatever we are contending with, that if we just tried harder and persisted longer we’d somehow get a better result. I’m not against hard work and persistence. At some point, however, we need to take stock and realize that sometimes the ladder we’re using to climb is leaning against the wrong wall!


I’ve chided parents that complain how their child must have some kind of learning problem because they’ve told their child 100 times to do something or to stop doing something, and the child is still not heeding them. I then ask, “So what makes you think that on the 101st time he/she is going to change?” In other words, who has the learning problem?


  • When all is said and done it does help to be a little bit crazy in order to live in this insane world. This may sound like the opposite of everything I’ve said. It’s not. We are healthy human beings when we recognize our particular aspects of nuttiness or our own annoying peccadilloes. The people who don’t see this are the really scary ones. They are the ones that are absolutely crazy.  


  • Creative thinkers initially are often written off as being crazy. People that have created paradigm shifts in society or brought about a breakthrough in science, medicine or technology were at first ridiculed and written off as kooks. Actually first they are ignored; next came ridicule. Finally, they are greeted by an overwhelmingly friendly crowd with, “Oh, of course you are correct. We couldn’t agree with you more. As a matter of fact we always suspected this, as well.”


  • Sometimes the reason folks are called crazy has more to do with their being out of main stream thinking, operating from their unconventional thinking, or it’s just that they are doing things differently from the ways ordinary people think and do stuff. This business of being unusual, or out of the ordinary takes courage. Misfits and outliers aren’t usually rewarded.


  • They pay a price just for being crazy differently, differently than most conventionally crazy people. Other words for these people are: nonconformist, maverick; original, eccentric, bohemian; dissident, dissenter. Society has little tolerance for these people. We are people who do not tolerate folks being out of the main stream and yet they are so important for the advancement of our species.


  • I am trying to be a bit light hearted and playful perhaps, while also attempting to make a few points. Being super serious is another way of being crazy. Why? Because whenever we are being very serious – or being significant – we are in fact being anxious. It’s usually not easy to recognize our anxiousness. But we can notice our seriousness. Our seriousness is a red flag that ought to prompt us to think: ‘Ok, I’m being very serious here so I must be feeling anxious right now.’ Then when we realize we are anxious we need to then realize we are no longer responding to what is going on; rather we are being reactive. Reactivity comes from creating a perspective that is bumming us out. We’re now operating out of the reptilian part of our brain.


  • This reptilian part of our brain is great when you are in a burning building and you need to get out of there in a hurry. This is the part of our brain that contains our fight or flight It gets you running to the nearest exit! In this case it is an appropriate acute anxious reaction. You’ll grab your belongings, find yourself out in the parking lot, and now in a safe place.


  • But when we operate from a chronically anxious place – meaning we tolerate being regularly anxious – then we are not allowing our mammalian brain to help us find useful and creative solutions to our problems. We’ve locked out of that part of our brain designed to help us figure out complex stuff. And that, my friends, is crazy. That’s how we behave just as crazy people do.


  • If you explode into a fit of rage, screaming and ranting at someone or something, this is an action of someone being crazy, at least temporarily. If you prefer we can call it behaving immaturely. If and when you do eventually recover, and ideally dwell on this unbecoming behavior, you may try to figure out where this all insane behavior comes from.


  • Acting like a reptile by overly reacting is just plain crazy and it is worthwhile sorting out where this version of reactivity stems from. This is the work one can engage in by using family systems thinking and by investigating our family of origin issues. By not doing this work we do not then benefit from our greater intelligence. Instead we are doomed to repeat these off-putting ways and remain immature (crazy).


  • If you become upset at someone for their words and/or actions, you are likely to see this as a matter of a simple cause and effect situation. This is not the case. As infuriating as that behavior may be to you, the central argument is an emphasis on our own responsibility for our own reactions. “You make me angry” is seen as an essentially misleading statement.


  • This other person does or says this thing and you get angry is nearer the truth. That’s because ultimately nobody makes you angry but you. I’m not saying that people should not be angry, or that they should pretend not to be angry and bottle up their feelings. It may be absolutely appropriate for you to feel angry and even feel that this relationship needs to end. However upset you may feel at the time, it is simply not true that this other person has made you be angry or upset.


  • The feelings you are experiencing depend largely on the way you have chosen to interpret the situation. This way of interpreting is inside of you and is stressing you, rather than as an objective reality floating about in the air around you. It is the person you are at that moment.


  • This turns out to be very good news. While we cannot control or determine most of the circumstances of our lives, we can learn how to respond in more powerful and effective ways. None of us got to choose to be born; where to be born; when to be born. We didn’t get to choose a whole huge list of things. The only thing we get to do is choose how we respond to these various circumstances. I am building a case for all of us to live more reflective lives. These are the keys to the kingdom/queendom.


  • AA people speak of “stinking thinking” as the universal addiction. They are correct. All the substance addictions – alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, etc. – are simply the more visible forms of addiction. Actually all of us are addicted. We are addicted to (a). Our own habitual ways of doing anything, (b). Our own defenses, and most especially, (c). Our patterned way of thinking. The way we process our reality, which is hidden from us in the moment, is at the heart of our addiction problems. A reflective life can open us up to getting sober (less crazy).

We each are on a journey. It is meant to be one of discovery and growth. None of what I have presented is meant to discourage. Just the opposite.  

“Once begun, a task is easy; half the work is done.” Horace

Since we are on a journey why not embrace it and have some fun uncovering new and exciting possibilities? Why not take on becoming crack pot-fishermen and women?

A three-step approach:

  1. Get clear about what kind of state of life you ideally wish to be in. Joyful? Peaceful? Alive? Calm and serene? You decide.
  2. Recall a specific occasion in the past when you were in that state.
  3. Practice re-living it as vividly as you possibly can until it becomes your normal way of being.

Enjoy your amazing journey, you adorable crazy you.