So you want to be normal?
'Normal' is a word avoided by therapists - and not just the hypno kind - because it can be judgemental (who wants to be labelled 'abnormal'?), and is not easy to define. But I'm going to explore it here because it is used a lot by clients, who come into my office and say 'I just want to be normal'. The trick to achieving it is for both of us to understand exactly what that means.
Do you feel different?
Often what people mean when they say they want to be normal is that at the moment they feel 'different' in some way.
Feeling different from what other people do, feel or think
The difficulty with this one is that we never really know what other people are thinking or feeling. We see them tripping through life apparently without too much trouble, and assume that they are as much in control as they appear. Often this isn’t the case. Clients with public speaking phobias, for example, often tell me they hate doing presentations but no-one at work is aware of it as they hide it well.
Actually, phobias like this respond well to hypnotherapy, and if you banish them life becomes much more comfortable. But just consider for a moment - who else in the room is doing exactly the same as you - appearing fine but 'hiding it well'? And how many people would have to share your concerns to make them 'normal'?
Feeling different from ourselves
This could mean different from how we think we should be, or how we believe we usually are. It can be linked to depression or stress and is worth some investigating. Ask yourself a few questions...
- If you feel you are different from how you usually are, what changed? When? What was going on in your life at that time? In what ways are you different now?
- If you feel different from how you should be, who or what decides on what's acceptable? If it’s not you, do you agree with them? Is it actually possible, or realistic, to be that way? All the time? Have you ever been what you feel you should be?
These can be hard questions, and a therapist is well placed to help you answer them if you’re struggling.
Square pegs and round holes
You have to remember that 'normal' is different for different people and at different times. At one point it was normal to believe the world was flat, although these days you'd probably get some funny looks. What about spending your weekends at Star Trek conventions in full make-up and costume?* Becoming an accountant?* Where exactly does 'normal' stop and something else begin?
Going along with the norms of a particular group at the appropriate times (e.g. the Star Trek fans mostly don’t wear their costumes to the office) can help you bond with friends, define your interests and social status, make you feel accepted and valued. My daughter plans to wear her fandom tee shirt to her first day at college in the hopes of finding some like-minded people. Ironically, being 'the right sort of different' can help in similar ways; what if you are the tallest man (or woman) in the world? Or the winner of X-factor? You could become famous, do personal appearances, meet other celebrities, get recognised in the street and so on.
Maybe all you have to do is extend your boundaries a bit, and recognise that you are already perfectly fine but that you need to place more value on who and what you are. If you can’t do this, you may be affected by low confidence or self-esteem, and again a therapist can help you.
Feeling out of control
Sometimes extreme or negative thinking gets a hold of us and we can’t seem to make it stop. This is really a concern for people who have panic attacks, who often fear they are dying or having a heart attack when the panic hits, but it can happen at other times too. Sometimes it's behaviour rather than thoughts that seems to happen without us being aware of any specific decision being made - running away from a tiny spider, binge eating, smoking and so on.
Whether it’s thoughts or behaviour, feeling out of control can cause you to worry about your mental health or feel 'not normal'. In this case, recognise that some part of your mind is controlling those reactions, and it probably thinks there's a good reason to do or feel those things. Reassure yourself that your mind can learn to react differently. Getting control may be something you can do with support from family and friends, tips from blogs like this one, or a GP or therapist.
So where does this leave us? Hopefully, it leaves you with an understanding of why therapists tend to avoid the word normal, it’s just too complicated.
But if it is what you’re looking for, start with what do you mean by 'normal'? Really break it down and define it. How will you know when you are there? What’s the first step you can take towards it?
And if you need my help to achieve it give me a call.
*Before anyone says anything, I like Star Trek and my favourite is Voyager, although I have never been to a convention. I also like doing my accounts. There's no judgement going on here, they’re just examples!
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.