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:
- one that is normal.
- a form or state regarded as the norm.
- 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 !!! 🙂 :) :)