Once someone asked me one of my favorite questions, “What’s Normal..?” Now, this person was asking it in regard to someone wondering if there was anyone normal in the room. This instantly got a round of laughter from the majority. It does, however, raise a series of interesting questions. How do we shape our expectations and what do we consider “normal”..?
Some more every day folk or “vanilla” persons might think they wouldn’t have too much difficulty answering the question. However, but to many of us in alternative lifestyles (of which there is a great variety that has its own misunderstandings and intolerances) this question becomes infinitely more complex. This complexity is often true of those on more challenging spiritual paths, relationship dynamics, careers with a great measure of diversity in role and colleagues, etc.
Is it normal for this to happen… is it normal for that to take place.. I want to feel more normal.. how do I understand normal people.. why be normal…?
We often rely on a standard when there is a complete absence of a standard at all. However, the absence of the standard allows you the opportunity to place as great a challenge as you can take. The matter at hand is actually how much we have become so heavily reliant on our definition of normal, and all it comes down to is trying to define our concept of reality with a label.
When we do so, we have placed blinders on that which is possible.. and watered down the potential with what we have pre-conceived as being only actual or expected…
Before I get too carried away, let me run through a series of definitions (blended from a variety of dictonary sources), to get our bases covered:
nor·mal (nôr¹mel) adjective
1. Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical: normal room temperature; one’s normal weight; normal diplomatic relations.
2. Biology.. Functioning or occurring in a natural way; lacking observable abnormalities or deficiencies.
1. Something normal; the standard: scored close to the normal.
2. The usual or expected state, form, amount, or degree.
3. a. Correspondence to a norm. b. An average.
av·er·age (àv¹er-îj, àv¹rîj) noun
1. Mathematics. a. A number that typifies a set of numbers of which it is a function. b. See ARITHMETIC MEAN.
2. a. An intermediate level or degree: near the average in size. b. The usual or ordinary kind or quality: Although the wines vary, the average is quite good.
1. Mathematics. Of, relating to, or constituting an average.
2. Being intermediate between extremes, as on a scale: a player of average ability.
3. Usual or ordinary in kind or character: a poll of average people; average eyesight.
ex·pec·ta·tion (èk´spèk-tâ¹shen) noun
1. a. The act of expecting. b. Eager anticipation: eyes shining with expectation.
2. Statistics. a. The expected value of a random variable. b. The mean of a random variable.
Okay, now that we have that covered, lets continue.
Label in a Set
If what any group of people considers something as “normal”, it is often meant as to what is to be accepted to be true by the majority within that group. In which case “normal” is also the expectation of the average. Now, given what the demographic profile of the “average” is.. its no wonder why our society is the way it is. The common image of “the Everyman”is why certain television shows have longevity. Typical representations of the Everyman include (but not limited to):
- Stan Marsh from “South Park”
- Homer Simpson from “The Simpsons”
- Ed Bundy from “Married With Children”
- Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners”
But if characters from these shows are representative of the Everyman, it means our expectation is typically well intended but often shallow, bumbling, scheming, selfish, irresponsible and ignorant. It means our concept of normal as represented in pop cultures capture within the Everyman have fallen to a very sad state of affairs and often possess a very narrow view of the world. Its the narrow world view that is the biggest impact on what we see or define as “normal”.
Those people with broader experience often have a more expanded set of perceptions that fall well beyond the “normal” bell curve of expectation and world-view. Theirs is a bigger pallet with many more options, a longer and larger corridor with many many more doors to open leading into unique rooms to explore. When we apply the label Normal we should only be taken into consideration within the confines of its respective groupings use. In other words, a labels use is only valid in a consistent set.
Up is any Direction in Space
Personally, I don’t think I have never been perceived as normal, but then I actually like that… usually. If you are one to keep your mind open to many possibilities, your definition of what is normal becomes more open, the world is wider and deeper. This allows the potential for new or just different experiences to be had. This concept of Anti-Myopicism (to coin a term) allows one to perceive more, and thus learn more. I think this is one reason why Eclectics tend to learn so much.. there are no Normals, no boundaries, to keep them from shooting of on different tangents and rays of thought… its an accelerated learning process of expanding patterns. A single way can access many views into other possibilities.
What is normal in ones work, kink, spiritual path, etc., may be quite different or harsh or elemental for another. There is a song by a group that reads “I believe in what I see, I believe in what I hear, I believe that what I’m feeling changes how the world appears”. For us, little more can be universally consistent, for it is our feelings and perceptions which have tremendous impact on what happens to us. Because of this vast differential between one person and the next, the expectation of “normal” results gets blown away by our individuality, regional culture, upbringing, etc.
The random variables of life certainly can be considered, averaged, and become labeled as normal. We do that as it is, trying desperately to determine what is real, what fits, how things work – but most often its trying to figure out how to fit it in the box of what we already believe to be true, to be real, to be “normal”. The objective truth however is that it is still highly dynamic and much depends on your orientation. When in the deep void of space, any direction is Up – for what is considered over our head all depends on us.
Objective vs Subjective
This in no way implies that certain frequently observed results, regardless of practice, are without merit. For example, certain techniques of any technical domain can have a high
degree of predictability, and can be used in cross-over quite well. For example, something akin to spiritual energy found within yoga, qigong, reiki, tantrics, etc., all leverage what is essentially the same thing. This is still largely experiential from the view of the individual, and science is still wrestling with how to account for phenomena in a predictable and reliable fashion.
Depending on our emotions, perspectives, balance, etc.. our sense of “normal” has a wider spectrum than one might initially expect. Is all our work activated and released with perfect results, instantly, consistently, without fail or deviation..? Well.. sometimes, sure.. and that’s called science. Experiential phenomena is our Subjective reality, quantifying and having a working predictable model is the Objective reality.
From a martial arts perspective, which I also practice, one can look at an opponent and see balance, movement, possibilities. All you need is a moment to immobilize someone with one finger in my hand, tip them over with a gentle nudge, or use a cavity point to cause blinding pain. From a BDSM play perspective, one can feel the the presence of the other, their emotions and sense of being, and adding just the right touch with for additional and unanticipated effect – for pleasure or pain. These are skills, competencies built over time and effort through practice and study. What is “normal” for some is extraordinary for those without the knowledge or experience.
Defining Normal for Yourself
Predisposition, past experiences, training, internal development, are all so varied that we cannot truly relate to another’s sense of normal. It can seem almost alien, in fact, when we are faced with a quiet confidence living in a frame of reference which is so vastly different than our own. I think the only way we can address these differences in our personal frames of reference is to understand all frames are unique in many ways, and yet still bound by the human condition of Life. We can try to illustrate that what is normal for one, but also accept that it may be very different, if not odd, for another. Even with these differences, sometimes so seemingly alien, to challenge ourselves to accept the others view without judgement beyond what is right for you.
Consider that what is not right for one will certainly be right for another somewhere on this earth. We need perhaps to expand our understanding and if possible see a relationship, but NEVER try to convince another their sense of “normal” is anything but. There are things that we have observed and think “should” happen, but leave plenty of room or berth for all that space required by our individual talents, skills, experiences, and (most importantly) beliefs.
I think this is perhaps the reason why I enjoy alternative beliefs and lifestyles, and coach others in such, is because, no matter who is saying what, there are always differences.. and thus something new to explore. Normal is static, yet life itself is far from a still and motionless thing, far from being static. To me, and to a great many others, the only truth that matters is what you learn through the wonder of discovery and a mindful experience.
All healthy individuals long for very similar things, from their childhood through their adult lives. They wish to be acknowledged, accepted, trusted and loved. These are the deepest needs of the inner child, and is often the basis for much interpersonal drama in our private and working lives. The way you may feel or express these needs may differ, but the root remains the same deeply driven need, along with that of a sense of security.
So if you are wondering if wanting to surrender control to a lover is normal, if being spanked or tied down is normal, if being a protective structured mentor is normal – the answer is yes to all these and much more. Because its not any one thing or craving that defines normal…
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