What is normal?

Posted by The Administrator - 2017-07-24 08:51:45

The concept of physical illness is readily understood: the body becomes infected or inflamed, or grows abnormally, or is affected in any number of ways, all of which can be studied conventionally with laboratory tests or under a microscope. But a mental illness is something else altogether. Mental illnesses, or emotional illnesses, are disturbances of behavior and of feeling and thought. They are disorders of function that do not correspond readily to precise physical impairments and that seem, therefore, intangible--vague,aberrant expressions of the mind. At the same time, they are elusive, because they seem to be only exaggerations of the way ordinary people think and behave.

You might expect normal to be an approachable sort of word, confident in its popularity, safe in its preponderance over abnormal. Defining normal should be easy, and being normal should be a modest ambition. Not so. Normal has been badly besieged and is already sadly diminished. Dictionaries can't provide a satisfying definition; philosophers argue over its meaning; statisticians and psychologists measure it endlessly, but fail to capture its essence; sociologists doubt its universality; psychoanalysts doubt its existence; and doctors of the mind and body and busily nipping away at its borders.

Every person is distinctive, a particular individual with his own ideas and his own ways of doing things. The mentally ill seem special only in that they are more distinctive. They are idiosyncratic or eccentric, even peculiar; yet in their strangeness there is nothing unrecognizable. They experience no impulse nor longing that is foreign to a normal person, and they suffer no illusion that a normal person has not known. The symptoms of mental illness are embedded in, and grow out of, the normal personality. Since life is varied and complex anyway, it is hard to determine where normal behavior leaves off and abnormal behavior begins. In retreat from this tantalizing ambiguity, some psychiatrists have chosen to take the position that there is no such thing as mental illness. In a similar argument, one might contend that since orange blends closely into red, there is no such thing as orange.

f the manifestations of mental illness can only be seen in relief against normal behavior, what then, after all, is normal behavior? What sort of person is a normal person? He is someone, first of all, who feels happy a considerable part of the time. Not all the time, of course. He is angry when he is frustrated, disappointed when he fails. He grieves when he has lost someone. Sometimes he is frightened. But he is not characteristically in any single mood, for there is an aptness to his feelings, a fit between them and the circumstances of his life. Since the circumstances of every person’s life are varied, so are his feelings. Still, in general he thinks of himself as being happy. He can relate to other people, being assertive when appropriate and conciliatory at other times. He may not feel comfortable with everyone, but he does feel secure within his family and among his friends.

So if mental health is a process of growth, mental illness is an inhibition of that process. If being normal is to work and love and feel happy—relatively—being disturbed emotionally is to suffer relative impairment in these capacities. There is not yet a better distinction between health and illness, or between an ordinary person and someone who has become ill. (This passage is excerpted from “Caring: Home Treatment for the Emotionally Disturbed.”) © Fredric Neuman Follow Dr. Neuman's blog a fredricneumanmd.com/blog

Over the years I have found many clients ask me questions or make statements such as “ That’s not normal is it? Or “ Why aren’t I normal?”. In my experience these are not helpful questions to be asking and serve only to cause more problems. Normal is very subjective in its definition and what is important to reflect on is that we are all unique and there is little benefit comparing ourselves to others. We have the potential to change aspects in our life that are not healthy or helpful to us. Whether one is normal or not is not the question. Whether your current situation is helpful or not is a better way to look at things.

Melange Counselling encourages people who use this service will come as they are and know that regardless of their situation they will be treated with respect and in no way be judged. Giving clients, the room to freely express anything freely in a safe supportive environment.

"What you resist, persists". C.J Jung.


Neuman M.D, F. (2013, May 1). Psychology today. Determining What Is Normal Behavior and What Is Not. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201305/determining-what-is-normal-behavior-and-what-is-not

Francis, A. (2014 ). Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life
[Kindle DX version].
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