I’m trying not to use the word “normal” anymore, in fact I’d quite like it removed from the dictionary. In my opinion it is a dangerous word. ‘Normal’ has got us to where we are now. ‘Natural’ disasters increasing (read ‘made by humans’), the rise of the extreme political right, racism, separatism, poverty, displacement of peoples through war and persecution and a general sense of things going fundamentally awry.
We have accepted certain things as ‘normal’ which should never be accepted – ever. Normal as a concept incorporates the antithesis of expansion, diversity and transformation. As Jamie Arpin-Ricci (writer, activist and community pastor) says “One of the deadliest tools of powerful systems is narrow definitions of what is ‘normal’ and the reduction of difference to deviance.” It creates prejudice, judgements and violence.
Many people are struggling to be ‘normal’ which is causing them unnecessary suffering. I worked for many years in mental health and the pressure to fit into our collective concept of normal is immense. I lost count of the number of times someone would say to me “I just want to be normal”. I would reply that ‘normal’ is highly overrated but one voice against the tsunami that is societal pressure, whilst temporarily reassuring, could not really make much of a long-term difference. A typical conversation would go along the lines of “I just want to be able to go to the supermarket like a normal person and not freak out”. To my mind, freaking out in an impersonal, over-stimulating environment designed purely to encourage you to buy things you probably don’t want, is a totally appropriate response and if more of us listened to our innate responses to these kinds of norms then maybe the world would look different (or at the very least the world of household shopping!).’Normal’ is also anti- diversity. When we as a collective try to homogenise our existence, we literally wipe out the possibilities of differences being celebrated and cherished, and instead create a hostile environment for them – unfriendly and unkind. Through so doing, we lose our access to so much rich potential in the human experience.
Hopefully we’ve established my allergy to ‘normal’, so where’s the good news?Well – as a teacher and practitioner of Body Harmony I often come across the possibilities inherent in ditching the normal – and on a very tangible physical level. The body responds to curiosity about the unknown and new and shows us potential for transformation on a personal and global level. When we follow the ‘not normal’ we are opening the gates to unforeseen and unimagined possibilities. New neural pathways wake up, unacknowledged parts of ourselves get to have their say and life can look very different from their perspective.
Getting off the table after a session once, it felt like my feet had transformed into ‘hobbit’ feet – large, muscular and hairy (I think I had to take off my socks and check – at least in relation to the hairy bit!). When I now feel back into that sensation, the possibilities in operating from that solid base reawaken in me – the sense of feet in tune with the earth and able to respond to life – a better place to face any challenges that might arise. (It also makes me a nicer person somehow – maybe I should tell my family to say ‘hobbit feet’ to me when I’m being a bit grumpy!).
To stick with the unusual, new and not ‘normal’ is to not go ‘back to business as usual’ and increase the possibilities for transformation. I love this quote from Michael Montoure, “Life went back to normal after that, as it will do if you’re not careful.” Let’s be careful, let’s not go back to normal, let’s not join in our collective going back to normal.
Sometimes in my Body Harmony practice I come across a stated intention for a session which appears to be what my client thinks should be a ‘normal’ intention; less pain, more ‘cosmic’ etc. I can feel myself drift off and become less able to notice body responses. If, at this point, I can catch myself and gently encourage the exploration of a more deeply authentic intention without judgement, the shifts can be almost as powerful as a full session. Allowing ourselves to intend out of the normal can be transformative for ourselves and by extension for those around us.
Fennel Hudson (the “contented countryman”) said; ”Make a difference by being different”.
It seems to me that being wholly ourselves and embracing our unacknowledged, ‘abnormal’ or outcast parts is the biggest gift we can give to the collective right now. Exploring and embracing what makes each of us unique is to honour the uniqueness of others and in an external world currently focussing on separateness, I don’t think we can afford not to.
“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou.
I wish you happy exploring of the individual, quirky, wacky, special, unique and amazing being that is you.
In transformation, collaboration and harmony.
Fiona Withers – Body Harmony practitioner and teacher.