Friday, September 29, 2006

What is "Normal"?

Ok - so maybe I won't disappear all together. I'm sure my writing will become much more sporadic now that I'm in grad school, but sometimes I do need to take a break from the books. Other times, this seems like a likely place to sort out some of the ideas and concepts I'm being exposed to.

For instance.... in my psychopathology class we had a rather interesting discussion on what "normal" means. How can we consider mental illness unless we know what it means to be mentally / emotionally healthy?

Is there such a thing?

In my textbook "Symptoms in the Mind" by Andrew Sims various definitions of "normal" and "health" are considered.

"The World Health Organization definition of health states 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity'(1946)"

HUH? As the author goes on to say: "If total well-being is required perhaps virtually all of us are excluded." (Sims p. 6)

Amen to that!

So, admitting we all have our quirks and what point does a specific behavior, thought pattern, characteristic or condition cross the line from being "odd" or "eccentric" over into what we consider truly deviant or mentally ill?

Because my first master's degree is in Sociology I can't help but see everything through the eyes of cultural influence. What is considered deviant in some circumstances may be considered delicious in others. Depends on so many things...who is watching, who is doing, who is in power, etc. etc.

Thomas Saatz argued there was no such thing as mental illness at all - just behavior that the power structure of society disapproved of. I worked in the mental health field far too long to believe that....I've spent too many hours with people in psychotic states to think all mental illness is a matter of social definition. There clearly ARE brain disorders that cause tremendous chaos for some individuals.

But when does someone being "quirky" gravitate over to being deemed pathological?

The old joke says that if you are kinky you use a feather, if you are really weird you use the whole chicken.....

but I digress.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around what it means to ME to name myself or others as "well". What is required? Is "well" the same as "normal"? Do I know anyone who completely fits my own definition? Does normal have more to do with
a) the ideal "healthy" condition we desire or
b) the condition that most people fit into

If nearly everyone in the human condition is "unwell" then is it "normal" to be sick to some degree?

Yeah, this is the stuff I will be studying for the next while. What have I gotten myself into???

HMMMM..... ok, back to the books.

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