The Line Between Normality and Abnormality is Wide and Murky

I have been pondering how to measure psychological normality. This may be a simple process to those who address such questions professionally, but I rather doubt it. The human mind is a complex thing and I suspect that there is not so much a line between normality and pathology as there is a large murky area which may be one or the other. When my daughter needs to take a small object to school so that she feels secure, this is normal. When she fills three quarters of her backpack with small objects and is insistent that she needs all of them, there is a larger emotional issue which needs to be addressed. For a long time I’ve had a functional definition for a disorder. Something becomes a disorder when it interferes with the things the person wants to accomplish. It is a good and solid definition, except for the fact that the human mind is wired to adapt and it will gradually change its perception of normality. Then I’m left wondering how we all came to consider as normal my daughter hauling seven pounds of erasers, small toys, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and trinkets to school. Once we identified the issue as a problem and found the root causes, my daughter was much happier and life was better. These days she skips off to school, her backpack empty of everything except school work.

Our own lives are always normal to us, except where they compare with recent history. My life feels normal to me, which is why I am bemused when someone tells me that reading my blog helps them feel like their life is more manageable, because they have less to handle than I do. I am then left to ponder, have I inched my way out into some abnormality without recognizing I have done so? If I have, why did I do it? Does it need fixed? Is my life structure a problem? On nights when I lay awake with my mind spinning and my heart racing I think that perhaps yes it is. On days when I get everything done and the sun is shining I think that perhaps it is not.

Standing in the middle of my life, it is hard to see past all my things to tell if the whole thing is running out of kilter or straight on course. An outside perspective is necessary. I rely heavily on prayer and inspiration for my outside perspectives. I get daily, sometimes hourly, feedback about whether to stay the course or shift things. I also depend upon several perceptive friends. I talk until my voice is hoarse and they see things which are invisible to me. I am extremely fortunate. Perceptive friends keep turning up in my life just when I most need them. They function in many of the ways that a good psychologist or therapist can function. Sometimes I get to be the perceptive friend for someone else. I always feel honored when this is the case. The truth is that we all need rescue sometime, often when we can’t even tell that we’re drowning.