It’s a common trope these days.  Without local community, with families spread apart geographically, schools over crowded, and our society becoming ‘global’ and electronically ‘social’ it is hard to find any standards for behavior other than what is presented in the ubiquitous an overwhelming advertising we are subjected to each minute.  So what is ‘normal’?  A better question really is ‘What has ever been ‘normal’?’ but no one thinks about that except historians and political scientists so I’ll ignore that I even mentioned it. 🙂

Normal is what we decide it is.  Simple as that.  Scientists and mathematicians are great at giving us the big picture and grounding things in facts and figures, but as well all have experienced, facts can be skewed and numbers can be manipulated.  In truth, normal is what we experience ourselves and what we agree on as a group, whatever group you belong to at any given moment.  So when a client or a student asks me, “Is this normal?” I usually ignore the question as stated and reframe it for them.  Because they don’t actually want statistics on whether it is normal, they want to know if they are ok or if something is wrong.  They want to know if they are doing it right, seeing it right, feeling it right, or if they have missed the mark, have something wrong with them, or need to do something different.

I therefore respond to what they are actually asking by putting their request in context.  I don’t have all the answers, I’m not omniscient and I’m not in their skin living their lives, but I usually have some information, and opinion or two, and sometimes even an insight that can help.  By giving them that, by responding to them and not withdrawing or being negative about their experience, I seem to be helping for community and therefore drawing the lines around ‘normal’.  Ironic, ain’t it.  By responding to an individual and supporting their unique experience I help create a collective and define a group norm.  Go figure.

So when you start questioning, “Is it normal…..?” stop and evaluate what you are actually saying.  It’s…ahem….normal to ask the question, but what do you really want?  What reassurance do you need?  What permission are you asking for?  Are you wanting to accept the experience and continue having it?  Are you wanting acknowledgement and help in healing it?  Are you wanting to find and build community around it?  Each day we create our own ‘normal’ through our choices and actions.  Don’t accept yours as a burden, celebrate it as an act of rejoicing!