Are you 'normal' ?

While reading one of my favorite authors I came across a conversation between father and daughter about ‘normal’ and what it means.  Since my mind was already switched on in that direction,  I took special note.  Because what on earth does ‘normal’ mean?

So I decided to look the word up in a couple of places:

According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal )  ,  ‘normal’ may refer to:

  • Normality (behavior), conformance to an average
  • Norm (sociology), social norms, expected patterns of behavior studied within the context of sociology.

 The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines normal / abnormal as follows  ( http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/ ) :

  • Normal:  ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected.
  • Abnormal:  different from what is usual or average, especially in a way that is bad.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary ) says:

 Normal is:

  •  one that is normal.
  •  a form or state regarded as the norm.

 Abnormal is:

  • deviating from the normal or average  

 So the meaning of the word ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ depends on a couple of things.  It is closely related to average and to expectations.  Take a bunch of people and ask them what they consider for instance normal behavior,  shake it together and voila,  here is your average meaning.  It is how they expect people to generally behave. 

Everyone outside of these expectations is considered ‘abnormally behaved’.  However,  to become ‘normal’,  one has simply to conform to the standard of the group.  Than you become the same as anyone else. 

Why is  being / behaving normal so important?  Well,  we find the answer in the Cambridge Dictionary:  abnormal is considered bad!  I don’t like the Cambridge Dictionary.  It doesn’t just explain the word abnormal,  it stamps a value judgement on it by saying it is bad.  Now,  that is what I consider rude :( 

Initially,  I like the way the Merriam-Webster Dictionary approaches the meaning of both words.  Abnormal may stray from the norm,  but that isn’t necessarily bad.  It just is.

BUT the catch with the M-W Dictionary is this: normal (adjective) #4 says:  free from mental disorder (as in SANE).  Right.  Nice.  Thank you very much.  You call me ‘abnormal’ then,  I guess?  Or maybe:  insane?  Not in my right mind?  An aberration?  This is worse than rude!

Now on to the quote from a book of Elizabeth George called ‘In pursuit of the proper sinner’  (New York,  Bantam Books, 2000),  page 648:

  “ An aberration to you might be perfectly normal to someone else.  In fact,  you might be the aberration in their eyes”,  Nicola said.

He supposed this was the case,  he admitted.  But wasn’t normality determined by the numbers?  Wasn’t that what the word norm meant in the first place?  Wasn’t the norm decided by what the most people did?

“That would make cannibalism normal,  Dad,  among cannibals.”

“Among cannibals,  I suppose it is.”

“And if a group among the cannibals decides it doesn’t like eating human flesh,  are they abnormal?  Or can we say they have tastes that might have undergone a change?  And if someone from our society goes out and joins the cannibals and discovers he has a taste for human flesh that he wasn’t aware he had,  is he abnormal?  And to whom?”

 And to whom,  indeed!  According to the dictionary we,  BD’s,  are not normal.  Because we have a Disordered mind causing our moods to swing well beyond the so-called ‘normal’ or average range.  We might be the aberration.  Outside the norm.  But you know what?  I wouldn’t want to be anyone else,  normal or not!.

Do you remember when you were a child and you visited your friend’s houses?  They did things different,  which as a child we labeled ‘not normal’.  Why?  Because we considered how we do things at home as normal.  That is what we are used to and that becomes the norm.

It was only when I was prescribed sleeping aids that I really recognized that what meant ‘sleeping’ for me,  was not the same as for the average person.  I always could hear my thoughts.  They never stopped,  kept on going 24/7.  That was normal for me,  I’d never known anything else.  But with the sleeping meds I started sleeping as the average person,  boy, what an experience that was!

So I ask again: what on earth IS normal?

I believe each of us is unique.  We are created by a God who is endlessly creative.  Just think about all the people who have ever lived in history,  are alive now and will live in the future.  Each and everyone were, are and will be unique human beings.  Isn’t that fantabulous???  Who wants to be ‘normal’ ?  Or ‘average’ ?

I want to be exceptional,  atypical,  especial,  exceeding,  extraordinaire,  extraordinary,   phenomenal,  rare,  singular, uncommon,  unique, unusual.  Don’t you? 

But beware,  because if you do,  those are all (positive) synonyms of that one word:  ABNORMAL !!!  🙂  :)  :)

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Are you 'normal' ?

  1. Great post! I love love love what you have to say about this especially the part about God being endlessly creative. That is beautiful and amazing and so true!
    I am convinced this whole concept of “normal” is one big lie. Someone out there decided that a certain way of acting or thinking or FEELING (big pet peeve) was the correct way. Then because someone else didn’t want to seem abnormal they just played the part. As more and more people play the role it becomes more entrenched as the norm. Heaven forbid someone find out I’m different! The sad thing is that I think we all tend to fall into the same trap from time to time. Sometimes we have good reasons and sometimes we don’t. Sadly I see so many people put on this persona of normalcy and perfection while they look down on all the other “wierdos” out there. I don’t envy the pressure they must be under always having to keep up the appearance of being normal. That is one thing I have come more to terms with in my own journey of self acceptance. I no longer feel as much pressure to hide behind that mask of normalcy.
    Sorry to ramble on but as you can see it seems now that you have inspired me. I might have to write my own post on this topic!🙂

  2. Fenny

    Welcome back, Rachael!
    Glad you like the post – even better that it inspires you! Ramble, eh write away! *wink* And I luv me some comments, I really do. Besides, how do you think I got my blog name?😉
    Actually, I would be interested in your post re normal. I am still thinking things thru. Your / somebody else’s take on it would be awesome, me thinks.
    Self-acceptance is a biggie… why it is such a struggle to accept the way that God has made us and be simply ‘proud’ of our uniqueness goes beyond me. Well, it doesn’t (my own struggle tells me lots), but that is also fodder for another post…
    I love that you blog about the challenges and how you experience them. And I absolutely love that you have only taken down the tree now! You are very open and honest about what you write – I like that, makes me feel I get to know you, and me thinks, I like you🙂 (yes, really!!)

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