Now, there’s a question! If you are a minority, feel alienated, marginalised, rejected, unpopular…the chances are you may not feel very “normal”, and if that is the case you may feel insecure, bad or just plain wrong! Normal is a difficult buzzword, but its a meaningless one. It has no objective definition. What is normal?
I have had clients sit before me talking about their lives who feel these awkward abnormal feelings. When they become very selfconscious about making revelations to a complete stranger they feel the need to justify and adjust the view they feel they are giving of themselves “I’m not gay” is a common protest. I take the protests in my stride “It makes no difference to me whether you are gay or straight” I say, reassuringly. “I don’t judge”. They breathe easy, reassured that I don’t think of them as being abnormal in any way.
Normal is a horrible little word. We feel its beady little eye on us, judging us and finding us wanting. I remember the sting of it as a teenager in arguments with parents. “You’re not normal” was so cutting, so loaded. I felt judged in that moment, and was led to wonder “What do they know about me?” burning guilt at the accusation searing my conscience – guilty without a crime.
Normal is a word I loathe, but it has lost its power now that I know it is meaningless. It is an unkindness, designed to create mindless conformity, a thoughtless selfish word that burns us all. Is there anyone in the history of the word who hasn’t felt the word’s sting? Be normal, act normal, You’re abnormal! Pah!
But what is normal? That unpleasant word has no place in the mental health community because it is meaningless. Is normal average? Have I misjudged it? Let’s see – how to be average? What are the average number of arms a person can have? Most seem to have two, but some have less – so the average number of arms you can have must be something like 1.9. same for legs, arms, eyes, ears…. what sex is the average person? I think its about 58% Female. Skin colour? The colour of a bruise. And so on. This sketch of the average person certainly doesn’t tick any normal box in my conception! So, normal cannot be average.
In all these years I have not found an objective definition of normal that satisfies how loaded the word has felt. So let me provide you with a subjective definition of my own design. Normal is how I feel if I feel okay. Thats it, pure and simple. Situation normal… and happy!