At certain times in our life we often state, “I feel like I’m going crazy.” During these moments we certainly do not feel our usual or normal self, but what exactly does it mean ‘to be normal’?
The Latin origins of the word normal, norma, means conforming to common or collective standards or what is the usual rule or pattern. Interestingly, normalis refers to being made according to a carpenter’s square or the 90-degree ‘right’ angle. In statistics, the normal distribution is where the bulk of the results lie. We are conscious of collective normal behaviours when driving, making introductions and in making most decisions.
However, when one places too much concern on ‘being normal’ imbalances occur. Jung suggested that, “What passes for normality is often the very force which shatters one’s personality or sense of self.” In the act of trying to be ‘normal’ or socially acceptable one often violates their inner nature and this act causes mental or psychological distress. As Albert Camus stated, “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
Although not commonly used outside of clinical settings, the term neurotic refers to any mental distress whose behaviour is within socially acceptable norms (There’s that term again!). Neurotic behaviour shows up as restlessness, addiction, anxiety, aimlessness, obsessive-compulsiveness, anxiety, depression, anger, low self-worth, dependency, negativity and perfectionism. We all have neurosis and can learn from them.
Neurotic behaviour is a way of coping with some sort of psychological distress. Something is ‘off’ deep within one’s self. Jung suggested, “People become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.” Our soul sees the gap in how we live our normal life and how we truly want to live. Albert Einstein stated that we unconsciously drive our self insane by “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s like a sock in the dryer going round and round.
The craziness and neurotic behaviour beckon us to take a deeper look at what is really going on. We often see patterns of unhealthy behaviour. We begin to question the underlying beliefs or motives of our actions. A good place to start is to ask, “Has this way of thinking, believing or acting been working for me (lately)?” Although Ego will not like it, our soul will answer, “No. I want something else, something more meaningful and alive.”
This ‘something else’ is usually found outside of our normal way of thinking, outside of the too long-lived set of rules and beliefs of the societal and family-of-origin boxes. Ironically, we eventually, often painfully, realize that what really is absurd or abnormal is living by too much normalcy. It is crazy-making to live ‘like everyone else’ and against what our soul wants.
To be normal is to live according to what the soul feels is best. To live a meaningful life we must at times be willing to think and behave even if it is not what the majority of people think and do. Like the carpenter, craft your life based upon your own ‘right’ regardless of whether it is 90-degrees or something else.