If you wonder if you are normal,
the answer is definitely “No.”
You aren’t normal because normal is only an idea, not a reality.
Normalcy just isn’t worth discussing.
But I do have my own opinions about what is typical or average in our culture.
And, of course, I have my beliefs about when people need help and when they don’t.
AVERAGE, BETTER, OR WORSE?
In each of the areas of life I comment on below, I believe that:
If you are AVERAGE, you could definitely improve through therapy, medication, or both.
If you are BETTER than average, improvements are still possible but your costs (financial inconvenience, etc.) should be weighed against the likely rewards of professional help.
If you are WORSE than average, I think you definitely should get professional help regardless of the cost. (Read “Are You Considering Therapy?” if money is a problem.)
So here come my no-pie-in-the-sky opinions about what is average in our culture.
JOY / HAPPINESS
You have some definite happy moments each day,
but you know you have to work too hard for them.
Your have many happy moments each day
and getting joy seems easier and easier over time.
You share good laughs
but most days you need much more joy than you get.
You have disagreements most days,
and most of them don’t get resolved.
Verbal abuse (name-calling, humiliating, shaming)
doesn’t happen more than once or twice a year.
There is no violence or threats of violence.
You actually resolve most disagreements
and have fewer of them the longer you are together.
You have violence or threats of violence in your life,
or shaming and name-calling happen often enough to be expected and feared.
You never feel intense deprivation
from lack of human contact (called “stroke deprivation”).
You are lonely for quality contact no more than once per week.
You never feel intense deprivation
and you quickly find quality contact as needed.
You sometimes feel intense deprivation from lack of human contact
or you are lonely for quality contact more than once per week.
You scare yourself unnecessarily on a regular basis,
but at levels you consider tolerable.
You are almost never afraid
unless you sense (see, hear, smell, or taste) something dangerous.
Your fears are so frequent or intense
that you limit your activities because of them.
You feel “blah,”
have very low energy,
and think things like “what’s the use”
three or more days in a row,
two or three times a year.
You never feel depressed more than a few hours at a time.
You feel this way so often
you sometimes fear you’ll stay this way.
Family members try to control or manipulate each other rather regularly,
but they give up on it within minutes
and then pout and sulk when they have to face
that they can’t make things go their way.
People almost never try to control or manipulate,
and apologize quickly if they do.
People try to control or manipulate regularly,
and never learn that it’s impossible.
KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT
You try to figure out what you want
by comparing yourself to others and what they have.
You don’t know what you want as a unique person
unless it is an extremely strong and undeniably unique desire.
You get better and better at discovering what you want through your emotions.
You notice the feeling first,
think about it second,
and then decide what, if anything, you’ll do about getting it.
You feel “lost in your own head”
when you try to figure out what you want.
You just hope you’ll end up getting enough of it if you follow the crowd.
You are generally dissatisfied.
You don’t think very much of yourself,
but there’s no intense self-hate either.
You can look intensely into your eyes in a mirror
and know that you love yourself.
You have bouts of self-hate
and you hate to focus on your eyes in a mirror.
KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE
Average: You worry about your safety sometimes
even though there is nothing scary about your usual daily life.
You seldom think about safety.
You know you are always alert enough to be as safe as possible.
You catch yourself worrying every day,
whether you live safely or not.
(Note: It’s very reasonable to worry if you are around scary people
– but it’s not reasonable to be around them!)
You try to feel acceptance by doing what others want you to do.
You hide the things about you that you think are the unacceptable
from everyone (except maybe your therapist).
You have at least one person who knows almost everything about you,
even the things you think are unacceptable.
You have at least three friends who you seldom hide anything from.
You think you are unacceptable
and you often feel desperate while trying to “earn” acceptance
by doing what other people seem to want you to do.
I GUESS I COULD GO ON AND ON…
I’d like to write at least one more topic using this general framework.
Please let me know what other aspects of our emotional life
you would like me to comment on in this way.
Also, I think we could have some very healthy debates about this topic.
Write to me with your opinions!
(All correspondence is strictly confidential – of course!)