If you had to melt it down to one essential core the question most people bring to me revolves around normality. Is it alright to be like this or should I be worried? Sometimes clients ask me directly “Am I normal?”
Mostly I don’t give a direct reply. I’m no arbiter of normal but sometimes I’ll suggest a thought experiment: “What difference would it make if I said yes? Or even no?”
From our earliest days we develop a relationship with who and what’s around us - our environment. We learn how to get our needs met by demanding and adapting to how our demands are received. The environment might be receptive and nourishing, or might ignore, frustrate or even punish us. We learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t. In our families, in our schools, at work and in our intimate relationships. We consider how to fit in - how to be normal. And the costs of doing or not doing so. What we have to hide or give up on to reap what seem to be the benefits of fitting in.
It’s possible, possibly even normal, to take fitting in so seriously, so rigorously that we lose touch with our own needs or wants. In many ways it's easier to look after other people’s needs than look after our own. Sometimes this is called retroflection. It’s a dynamic many people in the caring professions might recognise in themselves.
We all need our individuality to be valued, to feel special. But we want to fit in too, to belong. Even more, perhaps, we want our kids to fit-in, be normal. What do we give up to be or appear normal? What does that cost us? Is it worth it? Do we even notice? If we do and it isn’t, how do we change? These are the issues I often end up discussing with people who ask me ‘Am I normal?’ There is no right answer but an enhanced awareness of what the question means to you can help you make different choices.