Why Do You Pretend To Be Normal?

A fellow blogger – Stevie Turner – published a post on Monday about the odd phrases that people have entered into search engines as a result of which they have landed on her blog. Her post is called ‘WordPress Search Terms,’ and can be found here – as with all her posts, I recommend it. I’ve often marvelled at some of the weird and wonderful things people search for. In my case, I once wrote a post for Think About Sex Day – yes, it really does exist – which gave me the opportunity to use the word ‘sex’ in the post’s tags, giving rise (or not, ahem) to countless disappointed people since then. I commented on Stevie’s post that my all time favourite was someone who had found my blog by asking ‘why do you pretend to be normal?’ I’ve always hoped that wasn’t aimed specifically at me, but there is always that nagging doubt, isn’t there?

At first I said to Stevie that I hadn’t tried to answer the question, but then I dredged the depths of my memory and realised that I had, in a post from June 2013, entitled ‘Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal.’ The post was written in response to one of the old WordPress daily prompts, back in the days when a) they still did them, and b) they were sensible. As you can see from the conversation I had with Stevie on her post, she expressed an interest in seeing my earlier attempt so, on the basis that I was guaranteed at least one reader, I agreed to share it again. Here it is – I’ll drop back in again at the end for a postword:

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STRANGELY STRANGE BUT ODDLY NORMAL

Daily Prompt: The Normal

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt asks ‘Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?’

This is a subject I’ve been struggling to write about for quite a while – since I started blogging last autumn, in fact. I think what has held me back from this is a twofold fear: firstly, that I would look as if I was trying to be an eminent expert, which I’d never claim to be on anything; secondly, it could be pretty dull. But the prompt has persuaded me to do it, so here goes. This is a companion piece to my earlier post today on Men’s Health Week.

Pretending

How do we define what is normal? What standards/criteria do we judge it against? Do we mean ‘conforming to societal norms?’ If you have a mental illness, like my depression, does that mean you are abnormal? Or if you are physically disabled, does that mean you aren’t normal either? Is ‘normal’ something to want or aspire to anyway?

Seeking inspiration, I tried looking in the dictionary. It said:

NORMAL, adjective

1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

2. serving to establish a standard.

3. Psychology:

  • approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.
  • free from any mental disorder; sane.

So there you have it. It’s a fair cop but society really is to blame for anyone who isn’t normal! I once asked someone on Twitter, now an ex-friend, to define normal and her off the cuff response was along the lines of ‘being or doing something that matches more than 50% of the population.’ That is, I guess, the societal norm approach. But why should you be considered abnormal if only 49% are like you? Where would – or could – you draw the line in such an assessment?

The reason we are no longer friends is that she decided I am an unpleasant, needy ‘attention whore,’ and that I am psychotic. And she said this in a very public way. Naturally, I strongly disagreed with this assessment but it makes my point for me: two people’s view of the same thing, or of each other, can be so different that the ability to define what is actually ‘normal’ must be subjective. In other words, it is different things to different people. 

Medication can be good for you!
Medication can be good for you!

Looking back at the dictionary definitions, I don’t really have any problem with the first two, which I see as being ‘situational’ definitions. But as you might expect I really cannot agree with the psychological view! Whilst those may be the standards used by clinicians to diagnose their patients, I don’t believe that people with depression or other mental illnesses are helped by being defined as ‘not normal’ in a social context. I function perfectly well in society. So do most others with this and similar illnesses. Of course, medication can be helpful in achieving that, but would anyone consider it wrong to take medication for an ongoing physical condition, such as diabetes? I think not. That ‘not normal’ description, taken out of context, fuels the beliefs and prejudices of people who don’t understand that there are different types of illnesses. It is a factor in creating the stigma that exist: having depression does not mean you are ‘psychotic.’ But it is easy for people to be led into believing otherwise in these days of mass consumption of mass media. Remember The Sun’s ‘Bonkers Bruno’ headline when Frank Bruno was admitted to a clinic suffering from a depressive illness? I rest my case!

As Men’s Health Week is just about to begin it is an appropriate time to ask, not just for men but for all those suffering depression or who are in some way not ‘free from mental disorder’: can we please stop being thought of as abnormal? Why should we or those who have a severe physical illness or disability be regarded as anything other than normal? Basically, that is an insult.

Ignore labels. I am me. You are you. We are us. We are all unique and special, in our own way. One thing you can do better than anyone else is …. be yourself. 

Who wants to be ‘normal’ anyway?”

———

And this is me today. The concept of normality isn’t something I think about every day, but that line about being yourself is the one that best sums it up for me. We each have our own version of what it means to be normal, and it provides us with the reference points by which we live our lives. Why should anyone define normality for us? As I said in the original piece, it is to some – possibly a large – extent a subjective matter. How we perceive ourself must impact on our view of others, mustn’t it? How could we possibly remove that from our reference framework?

A couple of footnotes:

1. Men’s Health Week is coming up again. This year it runs from 10 to 16 June. I’m intending to do a post about it – it’s about time I reintroduced my Dates To Note series.

2. The title of that original was borrowed from a song: the opening track of Kip Of The Serenes, the 1968 debut album by the Irish hippy folk band Dr Strangely Strange. In case you were wondering 😉

27 thoughts on “Why Do You Pretend To Be Normal?

  1. Jim Borden May 30, 2020 / 8:53 pm

    As you point out, we are all normal, for us. No need to try and be like someone else – that would be unnatural…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive May 30, 2020 / 9:55 pm

      Indeed it would, but there are quite a few who try to do it. I couldn’t keep the pretence going if I attempted it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. robertawrites235681907 May 29, 2020 / 6:08 pm

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be normal. I am very abnormal. I spend my weekends writing, baking and blogging with some family time thrown in for good measure. I am obsessive about all these things and also about my work. I am a workaholic and a perfectionist. I haven’t watched a movie in over three years or watched TV in about 8 years or set foot inside a gym for 17 years. I think that I am lucky to be part of this lovely world of blogging where everyone is different and creative and shares interesting ideas and thoughts. Hooray for us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive May 29, 2020 / 6:31 pm

      I think you’re perfectly normal – for you! It’s one of those terms that means different things to different people, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • robertawrites235681907 May 30, 2020 / 1:10 pm

        Exactly. My son told me last night (the 14 year old) that I am very odd. I asked him why and he said I never rest.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive May 30, 2020 / 1:12 pm

        Fair enough. It would be boring if we were all the same!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. endardoo May 29, 2020 / 3:34 pm

    Here we are trying to be our own normal in times that are not normal … whatcha gonna do, eh, Clive? Just keep on doing what we do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive May 29, 2020 / 3:47 pm

      That’s all we can do, Enda. Hopefully it will see us through…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Clive May 29, 2020 / 12:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Take It Easy and commented:

    In these strange days of pandemic and lockdowns, many articles have been written about what life may be like when it is all over. Will we ever go back to being as we were, or will we have adapted into a ‘new normal?’ It was therefore a bit of a coincidence to see that I had posted this a year ago today, and I thought it worth sharing again for newer readers, or for those who might have enjoyed it so much the first time round and might be so bored in lockdown that they would welcome a chance to see it again.

    As you will see, the main part of this is a reworked version of a post I originally wrote in 2013, but I haven’t really changed my view in the intervening seven years. Normal, for me, may still very well be different from what passes for normal for you or others: I’m pretty certain that Numpty Trumpty’s version of normality is miles away from mine, for example! Whatever (to get in a plug for my WOTY), it is a concept that I think we might all be revisiting in the months and years to come: “do you remember what life BC was like?” Let’s revisit this in a year’s time and see what we think then!

    A couple of footnotes:
    1. Mention is made in the previous posts of Men’s Health Week – it is coming around again, this year from 15-21 June.
    2. BC, in case you needed reminding, stands for ‘Before Coronavirus.’

    Like

  5. Ellen Hawley June 10, 2019 / 8:23 pm

    It’s very strange out there in search engine land. No explanations are possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 10, 2019 / 8:27 pm

      It sure can be weird. At least I’ve only been asked that once! I’d go crazy if I tried to explain how search engines worked – I’ll just leave them to get on with their voodoo.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. tidalscribe June 7, 2019 / 11:27 pm

    Your little piece of revenge made me laugh! To be considered abnormal I think a person would have to be totally incombatable with normal society or their own personal survival. Have you followed the’7 Up’ ITV series. I have just watched all three programmes of 63Up. It is so interesting and very touching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 8, 2019 / 11:04 am

      It was well merited, trust me! The societal norm – whatever that is – is I think the best definition. It’s certainly the most practical. I have rather lost touch with that series I’m afraid. I remember watching the original – I was 8 or 9 at the time and it seemed very real to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. robertawrites235681907 May 29, 2019 / 6:55 pm

    I think this is a great post, Clive. I think I may have mentioned before that my son, who is incredibly bright, is also OCD. This is a mental condition and people don’t understand it at all especially as he is such a high achiever. I often point out that if his brain was in a wheelchair like a person with a disabled body, then people would realise and understand.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Clive May 29, 2019 / 7:46 pm

      Thank you, Robbie. Yes, you have mentioned that before, and I know exactly what you mean. I think people are scared of an illness they can’t see, and don’t know how to deal with it. That creates a kind of guilt about their own inability with it, which leads to stigmatisation. It becomes self -fulfilling.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. franklparker May 29, 2019 / 2:42 pm

    My other half’s response to some of my behaviour is “You are not normal”. (No! I’m not going to reveal what kind oif behaviour she is referring to!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clive May 29, 2019 / 2:48 pm

      I know you’ve been married a long time, Frank, so I guess you haven’t tried suggesting to her that maybe it is her frame of reference which isn’t normal, not yours? And in any case, she has tolerated this behaviour so it can’t be all that bad, can it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Stevie Turner May 29, 2019 / 12:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    A thought-provoking post by Clive at Take It Easy regarding people’s perceptions of what is ‘normal’. We all like to think of ourselves as normal, but is that what other people see? Are we ‘abnormal’ just because we have a disability such as diabetes or depression? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive May 29, 2019 / 10:41 am

      Thank you, that’s very kind of you – I’d be happy for a re-blog!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Stevie Turner May 29, 2019 / 10:34 am

    Thanks so much for the shout-out, Clive. What an excellent post you’ve written. The only way I can define whether or not a person is ‘abnormal’, is maybe if they stray too far from their own perceived normality. As you say, ‘normal’ is different for everybody – what is normal for one person, another would see as abnormal. Therefore it’s our own ‘normality’ that we have to take care of! What I’ve come to hate is that phrase ‘accept the new normal’… because it’s never as good as the old one.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Clive May 29, 2019 / 10:41 am

      YVW, Stevie – I wouldn’t have dredged this one up if you hadn’t reminded me of it. It really is a hard concept to define, I think, and I share your distaste for the ‘new normal’ phrase: normality can change over time, but it’s an evolution, not a revolution, and isn’t therefore ‘new.’

      Liked by 3 people

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