Home         Symptoms          Treatments          Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

What the heck is 'normal'?

 

 

In this multiple-part blog I’m going to be looking at the tricky subject of normality. I will be looking at different aspects of normality and will attempt to define what exactly normal is, if indeed anything at all. The first question then is - why on earth am I doing this to myself?!

 

 

At the time of writing we are now but a few weeks away from the release of the DSM5 by the American Psychiatric Association. For those who aren’t familiar, the acronym DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and we are about to experience its fifth incarnation. Interestingly the occasion is being met with mixed feeling by the mental health community, some who say that the DSM lacks scientific rigor. Other parties challenge the DSM for its continual pathologising of every area of human life. Bizarrely we have evolved a condition in which almost every aspect of human behaviour can be categorised as a disorder or illness that potentially requires medicating. Many people, myself included, shudder at this prospect.

 

 

The difficulty is that there clearly are some people in society who could reasonably be termed paranoidal, narcissistic, or depressive, for example. But where do we draw the line and recognise that all these things, if not for their prevalence alone, are quite normal? Of course it needs to be mentioned that such conditions are only considered significant if they cause harm or distress to the self and others. In my work with clients however I rarely ever use ‘labels’. The problem with labels is that while on the one hand they afford a sense of understanding and therefore control, they also ratify and validate unhelpful thinking styles and belief systems. Still, according to the DSM most of us aren’t all that normal, but could the DSM actually be paralleling an interesting shift happening in society right now?

 

 

In one of his recent books Seth Godin, a highly respected marketing guru and self titled ‘ideas man’, describes the changing shape of our economic and social landscape. His book entitled We Are All Weird: The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance Seth describes how the vast majority of people alive today in our culture have come through an education system that was designed to prepare them for employment in industry. That era however is now in a state of rapid decline, largely due to the surprise explosion of the Internet, and the whole landscape of business is changing.

 

 

In the age of industry, where every person in the work place effectively played the role of cog in a machine, the social concept of normal was hugely important and influential. Industry, unlike arts and crafts, values uniformity, predictability, and regularity, in other words it favours a ‘norm’. Not only that, it favours the norm en masse. The educational systems were therefore designed to create normal, predictable, cogs for the machine. The decline of industry, while placing a tangible strain on society - as will be evident in any major social shift - is actually liberating us from the prison of supposed normalcy advocated by the industrial age. In my view this a reason to be joyful, and is the first glimmer of light on the horizon of the future. So, it appears that the DSM is not all that incorrect; we are all weird!

 

 

What makes this so fascinating is that we’ve intuitively known it all along and it has been the source of some considerable anxiety. While walking down the street trying not to look weird, we observe everyone else and marvel at how weird they are. Alternatively we might worry about how weird we are and feel concern at how normal everyone else seems. Fortunately, once you realise the paradox that there is no ‘normal’, and that we are all a bit weird, but being a bit weird is normal, you realise that we’re all essentially the same, driven by very similar needs, and we can stop being afraid of ourselves and each other. Normality, at least one aspect of it, is about social conditioning, however thankfully this form of conditioning is now becoming redundant.

 

 

Back to Blog Contents

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Thanks! I'll get back to you as soon as I can...

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Home          Symptoms         Treatments         Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact 

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

What the heck is 'normal'?

 

 

In this multiple-part blog I’m going to be looking at the tricky subject of normality. I will be looking at different aspects of normality and will attempt to define what exactly normal is, if indeed anything at all. The first question then is - why on earth am I doing this to myself?!

 

 

At the time of writing we are now but a few weeks away from the release of the DSM5 by the American Psychiatric Association. For those who aren’t familiar, the acronym DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and we are about to experience its fifth incarnation. Interestingly the occasion is being met with mixed feeling by the mental health community, some who say that the DSM lacks scientific rigor. Other parties challenge the DSM for its continual pathologising of every area of human life. Bizarrely we have evolved a condition in which almost every aspect of human behaviour can be categorised as a disorder or illness that potentially requires medicating. Many people, myself included, shudder at this prospect.

 

 

The difficulty is that there clearly are some people in society who could reasonably be termed paranoidal, narcissistic, or depressive, for example. But where do we draw the line and recognise that all these things, if not for their prevalence alone, are quite normal? Of course it needs to be mentioned that such conditions are only considered significant if they cause harm or distress to the self and others. In my work with clients however I rarely ever use ‘labels’. The problem with labels is that while on the one hand they afford a sense of understanding and therefore control, they also ratify and validate unhelpful thinking styles and belief systems. Still, according to the DSM most of us aren’t all that normal, but could the DSM actually be paralleling an interesting shift happening in society right now?

 

 

In one of his recent books Seth Godin, a highly respected marketing guru and self titled ‘ideas man’, describes the changing shape of our economic and social landscape. His book entitled We Are All Weird: The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance Seth describes how the vast majority of people alive today in our culture have come through an education system that was designed to prepare them for employment in industry. That era however is now in a state of rapid decline, largely due to the surprise explosion of the Internet, and the whole landscape of business is changing.

 

 

In the age of industry, where every person in the work place effectively played the role of cog in a machine, the social concept of normal was hugely important and influential. Industry, unlike arts and crafts, values uniformity, predictability, and regularity, in other words it favours a ‘norm’. Not only that, it favours the norm en masse. The educational systems were therefore designed to create normal, predictable, cogs for the machine. The decline of industry, while placing a tangible strain on society - as will be evident in any major social shift - is actually liberating us from the prison of supposed normalcy advocated by the industrial age. In my view this a reason to be joyful, and is the first glimmer of light on the horizon of the future. So, it appears that the DSM is not all that incorrect; we are all weird!

 

 

What makes this so fascinating is that we’ve intuitively known it all along and it has been the source of some considerable anxiety. While walking down the street trying not to look weird, we observe everyone else and marvel at how weird they are. Alternatively we might worry about how weird we are and feel concern at how normal everyone else seems. Fortunately, once you realise the paradox that there is no ‘normal’, and that we are all a bit weird, but being a bit weird is normal, you realise that we’re all essentially the same, driven by very similar needs, and we can stop being afraid of ourselves and each other. Normality, at least one aspect of it, is about social conditioning, however thankfully this form of conditioning is now becoming redundant.

 

 

Back to Blog Contents