Norm and Norma, oh I know those guys

This morning I found out my divorce had been finalized and I am now showing on the national registry database of Finland as ‘divorced’. Let’s not even go there with the normative implications of allowing for that option only, instead of, y’know, ‘unmarried’ (you shall forever bear the burden of your inability to predict the future and your ability to make a mistake by choosing the wrong person, mwahahahhaaa!). Immediately my conditioned mind thought ‘How shoud I feel about this, what am I meant to think?’. I, like many others I am sure, have been conditioned to think of standards, of norms, when evaluating their behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Instead of making peace with their style of reacting to a particular event they may panic – I sure have done – and think ‘I should not feel this way, it’s not normal’. This morning I felt almost nothing and I thought, ‘This is abnormal, why am I so unmoved by this?’. I guess I felt slightly relieved, mildly happy, but mostly, nothing much.

Of course the problem here lies with the fact (one of the surprisingly few things I do see as facts instead of popular opinions) that there is no such thing as normal. Normal is a construct of the human mind, a word that has no pairing (such as a person who is this ‘normal’) in the real world. Honestly, find me one person who fits the ‘norm’, who is of average at everything, and I will set them on fire, as that is safe to do for an imaginary creature. Imaginary creatures, I believe, do not feel pain.

How does this all relate to my recent ponderings. Well it sure does, pure Foucauldian s*it to follow btw. Last week I was reading about the history of psychiatry, and through that, the history of the normal, and the abnormal. In an interview from 2009, the philosopher Ian Hacking discusses how the moral scientists of the 19th century started to look for regularities in human behaviour and that gave rise to the idea that it is of value to normalize people. A person with symptoms of the psychiatric kind is a deviation from the norm and then can be made normal again with treatment, medical and otherwise.   

Of course, in cases such as anorexia or bulimia, where the abnormal behaviour can be life-threatening, there is much sense and motivation to strive for the normal, or normal-er. But the problem can be too strict an adherence to a certain kind of normal. For example, when I was in treatment, I discussed with my nurse the possibility of going for lunch together. She had her lunch hour in between 11-12 (Finns eat lunch really early), but I said I can’t eat so early. I eat breakfast at 9, I am unable to lunch at 11. I could see from her face, and later hear from her comments, that she read my speech and behaviour as symptomatic of my ED. Never have I eaten lunch at 11. I am healthy. Wishing to dine slightly later does not an ED make. I am giving this as an example of the variation in habits of people, variation in lifestyles and preferences. When you enter the treatment space, your behaviour is seen as a sign of your abnormality more often that in other spaces. At work I am known as a late luncher and this poses no problems to anyone. I am not a problem, nor am I a deviant abnormal. 

Of course I must highlight that I do not condone being cool with lots of harmful behaviours  and letting the irrational mind of a malnutritioned sufferer run riot. I am simply stating that it is not always helpful to disallow for variations from the norm, when they make the person living in their own way happy. Classic examples are cultural differences in how a person may be diagnosed as suffering from a psychiatric condition involving strong variations in emotions and the expressions thereof more frequently in a culture of silence and introversion (this used to be Finland but Finland is changing I think). To put it bluntly (and I am sure, unfairly): if you talk too much, you crazy.

Essentially, live and let live. Increased tolerance towards difference may affect the number of psychiatric diagnoses. Deviance is no longer seen as deviant, as awareness of the many ways of being is increasing. People, who can more freely live as themselves, may feel less anxiety, less depression. My internal monologue of ‘Is this is an acceptable way to feel about this?’ may quieten.  All in all, good jams ahead, I hope.                                                                 

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