Reading psychology books can be a little like the hypochondriac who goes through life with a Merck manual at his side, looking for symptoms to support a life-long assertion of his imminent death.
That’s the thought that was rolling around in my head as I read an informative article called “10 Psychological States You’ve Never Heard Of… and When You Experienced Them” by Annalee Newitz. Some of them sounded interesting – like Enthrallment: a state of intense rapture. Or Compersion, which is the opposite of feeling jealous when your partner dates someone else (apparently popularized by polyamorists♥). Then I hit Normopathy: the unbalanced desire to appear normal.
Evidence of an Unbalanced Desire to Appear Normal
Don’t look now but we all may be suffering from Normopathy. Isn’t that what gets our teens into trouble by flirting with risky behaviour because everyone else is doing it – afraid to say no for fear of not fitting in? Could Normopathy be the driving force behind the crazy diets we go on in pursuit of a more acceptable body shape? How about the rise in consumer debt as we strive to keep up with the “new normal” — smartphones for every family member, expensive vacations, buying more stuff, and moving into larger homes so we can store all our stuff…
Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things and my place in society just as much as the next guy. I just don’t want to be normal.
The Case for Being Abnormal
I’ve admired abnormal people ever since I read Marie Curie’s biography. She may seem remote to some, but she was my first idol. Madame Curie became a scientist in the 1890’s — a time when women were uneducated. She married the love of her life, had children, and continued to pursue her career to the point of distraction. She was awarded two Nobel prizes in science. Today, we would call her a workaholic. An abnormal.
Roger Bannister set a goal for himself of breaking the 4-minute mile barrier. He used unconventional means, studying the mechanics of racing using scientific methods he invented. He was a college kid in the 1930’s who devoted himself to running faster by studying science. Clearly abnormal. Once he achieved his goal, he retired his running shoes and went on to earn a medical degree, becoming a neurologist.
I’d like to see us make more room for being abnormal. What are you passionate about? It doesn’t have to be work or science related. Do you aspire to become a skilled cake decorator? Do you want your home to be famous for Christmas lights, thrilling children and grown ups with your creativity? Maybe your thing is gardening. Or maybe it’s your business or corporate life. What could you do today to honour that passion?