The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Being normal

Originally normal meant “made according to a carpenter’s square”. A later meaning was “according to a rule”. Once people started to become interested in quantitative studies, they started to measure things and determine usual or most common values. That’s how normal came to mean a healthy or desirable value.

Interestingly being normal seen from that perspective becomes something like aligned with everyone else. It is as if one would become invisible in the group of “normal” people. This is somewhat confusing as being normal also means that the person is unique as no one is like the other.

Being “normal” thus might be better described as the effort someone makes to adapt to the group he belongs to and what the group expects from that person.

At the same time, being “normal” then means, that that person did everything he could to “disappear” within the group. All their efforts lead to assimilating with the others, which feels slightly disturbing. There is too little difference with the others to appreciate that person as the unique person he is.

The other extreme is being “unique”, which is what happens when someone seeks to be different from the group and to stand out. In that case, the person is so different from the others that there is too little available to establish a connection between them. It thus will also feel slightly disturbing to everyone.

The two “extremes” are rarely reached. There is always something people will do to assimilate as human beings seek the connection and search for belonging. There also is always something that they will do that leads to being different, it is the quest to avoid being engulfed.

The work thus is, to find a range within which one can position oneself. It’s being “normal enough” to feel the connection and find oneself at ease in the group. And it’s being “unique enough” to state who one is and what one stands for.

It takes time to get there. It’s a constant adaptation with everyone else who has a slightly different view on what “normal” means and how “unique” one can be.

There will never be a perfect match.

And that’s where the art starts. It’s being flexible enough to know that adapting serves the group and it’s being rigid enough to know when sticking to being different is what serves the group best.

The part that makes this work most difficult is the ability to realize how our anxiety of being rejected impacts our desire to remain within the group. However, it’s easier to think that it is the others who reject or exclude someone.


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