What is normal?

January 4, 2017 Wednesday

I'm starting to think the concept of "normal" is even more of an illusion than previously believed. Mostly in respects to neurology and psychology. It seems like everybody, or at the very least every family, has a touch of something. And if they're "fine" in the head, they're usually not "fine" in the body and have something wrong with a bone, organ, hormone, or system. Although hormones kind of bounce back and forth between being a head or body issue. Stupid hormones... And, no, I don't just mean the hormones associated with the reproductive system. There are other hormones in the body, such as with the thyroid. A bad TSH can mimic depression, such as excessive sleeping, weight loss or gain, trouble concentrating, and strange emotions. It's one reason why I suggest folks go get some bloodwork done before going to see a shrink if they're feeling so inclined. Rule out the easy stuff before tackling the hard stuff.

What brought this thought on was thinking about various people and families I've met over the course of my life. Oddly, only a handful of them would I say actually had something "wrong". Just because it's not normal doesn't mean there's something wrong. It's normal for animals to have legs, wings, fins, or some sort of appendage to aid in movement, but then there are the snakes and worms. Cross-comparing species may not be fair to the judged critter in question but it's the first thing I thought of.

Okay, chickens! Normal eggs are white or brown only, right? Well, the Easter Egg chicken has lovely shades of blue, green, pink, yellow, and whatnot, and then there is some pitch black chicken (assuming it isn't one of those melanism [reverse of albinism] varmints) that is black outside, inside, and lays black eggs. I think the yolk is black too, or maybe that part actually is the standard orange or yellow. Is something wrong with those chickens? Nope. Normal for those breeds. Although, along the same lines of the last example, cross-comparing breeds may not be that fair either...

Whatever. Point is, being a little unusual (or a lot unusual) doesn't mean something needs fixed. Might have to handle it differently, but it doesn't need fixed. A flathead screwdriver isn't a disabled Phillip's head screwdriver. Sometimes it feels that way when you've got a tiny screw to work with though, but doesn't mean it's broken. Just not a good fit for what you want out of it. Emotie: =P

Part of what brought this on was thinking about one person's oddities. But I respect their privacy, so I won't go into detail. But I will say I got a phone call recently that required me to go to their location and deal with them.

I don't know how much truth there is to it, but I think back often to the story of the African shaman Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé who came to America and witnessed our psychiatric hospitals, "What a Shaman sees in a mental hospital". He said what the Western society considers to be mental illnesses, the Dagara people say it's "good news from the other world" and has a message from the spirit realm. It was said that shamans and psychics can see the spirits and entities hovering around the afflicted and trying to get their messages through. With permission, he brought one kid back to Africa with him that had been "broken" for four years with all sorts of stuff going on. Hallucinations, depression, the works. Kept him for four years, because the kid wanted to stay there. The kid went through the alignment ritual to enforce the good spirits and shoo away the bad spirits, he shared some messages supposedly from the spirit world, then went on to be quite well balance. Returend to the states, went to college, lived on to have a happy life from what we've been told. No more head meds or psychiatric drugs.

One paragraph really stuck out:

One of the gifts a shaman can bring to the Western world is to help people rediscover ritual, which is so sadly lacking. "The abandonment of ritual can be devastating. From the spiritual view, ritual is inevitable and necessary if one is to live," Dr. Somé writes in Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community. "To say that ritual is needed in the industrialized world is an understatement. We have seen in my own people that it is probably impossible to live a sane life without it."

Autism often requires adherence to routine and pattern. OCD can certainly require an adherence to routine and pattern. Rituals are all about routines and patterns. I can't help but wonder how much less we'd have "crazy" people darting about if there was just a tad less chaos in the world. Including, as he mentioned in a later paragraph, coming-of-age rituals. Our environment is so sterile, desensitized, and robotic, that those who are even just mildly alive, sensitive, or plain ol' human tend stick out like a sore thumb.

I've gone about asking how the "mentally ill" were treated in days past. As one silly lady stated, "In the South, we don't hide our crazy away in the attic. We proudly display it on the front porch!" So while I can't speak for the whole world, often in my area that's generally how it went. Non-violent kin were seen as just a bit odd and left to live their lives in peace. If anything, if you went over to their house and rearranged their stuff, or pointed at them in public, you were the one who got in trouble for being so disrespectful! People were aware of these oddballs, but nobody made a big deal of it. Things have really changed. It doesn't seem to be for the better either.

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