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Day Seven: On Living “Beyond Normal”…

I just read Jenise Harmon‘s enlightening Sorting Out Your Life blog here at Psych Central.

It’s titled Live Beyond Normal and it’s one of today’s most popular.

It deserves to be and I urge you to read it…

Before I rhapsodize about her insights into that misunderstood word, normal, not one of my favourites, I read more posts by Jenise.

Thinking Outside The Box hit home for me.

“Everyone sees the world through their own frame, or box,” Jenise says. “Early on in life, people are given labels, told who they are and what is expected of them. They are ‘put in boxes.’ A teacher may label a student as gifted or slow. Parents see one child as the athlete, one as the smart kid, one as the comedian. Peers give the labels of stupid, ugly, dumb, fat, or loser.””But boxes, no matter how ornate or beautiful, are limiting.”

So true. So beautifully stated.

The same can be said for a diagnosis which, after all, is a label…

Like bipolar disorder. Or clinically depressed. Or ADHD. Take any mental disorder. Limiting, aren’t they?

I’m delighted I discovered Jenise’s blog this morning.

I love her approach to her psychotherapy practice in Columbus, Ohio, and a thoughtful, helpful footnote to her personal “About” page on her website. It’s great advice if you’re seeking professional therapeutic help:

“As you look at different therapists in Columbus Ohio, I encourage to you consider many things – background, experience, personality. But also use your ‘gut’ (or as I like to say, your unconscious). Pay attention to how you feel when you speak on the phone with a potential therapist. Did you feel like they were able to understand your concerns? Were they easy to reach? Did they listen?”

Now, back to the word “normal.” What resonated for me were the few instances which Jenise suggests, “normal” is what you want to hear:

“There are some things in life where normal is wonderful. Test results are one,” she says. “Weird car noises are another.”

But most of the time, do you really wants to be just normal?

Who wants to simply blend into the crowd and never be outstanding, remarkable, amazing, memorable? 

We’re all special in some way and yet being outstanding, not conforming, takes courage and the confidence to be yourself. You must risk “being yourself.” What struck me about Jenise’s post was the optimistic spin she put on “not being normal” ~ and she didn’t use the term “abnormal” ~ but  instead, the life-affirming phrase “beyond normal.” 

How brilliant… 

“Beyond normal” is the perfect way to validate those of us who may not feel good about ourselves, or good-enough because we have been labeled with psychiatric, emotional, or mental “conditions.”

(We’re all “mental” by the way. We all think. We’re all cerebral to a certain degree.) 

By definition, those labels often mean “not normal” or “abnormal” in clinical terms and in our collective consciousness and the skewed public discourse. There’s an negative value implicit in “not normal” or “abnormal.” It’s not necessarily so. 

We’re all different. Interestingly different…

Maybe too different for some people, but maybe that’s their problem. Perhaps they are too controlled and can’t let go. Perhaps we’re square pegs who don’t always fit neatly into their round or oblong or rectangular holes others expect us to fit into.

That happens too often in schools where young children don’t conform and are seen as “problems.” Perhaps another school culture might cultivating their talents and their individual ways of learning. We all learn differently,  but many elementary schools don’t often recognize that.

Beyond Normal and Beyond Crazy…

About 10 years ago, I contributed to an anthology called Beyond Crazy, Journey’s Through Mental Illness edited by Scott Simmie and Julia Nunes. Like “Beyond Normal,” the phrase “Beyond Crazy,” not only implies recovery, it suggests that experiencing craziness has life-enhancing potential for creativity, excitement and extreme human emotion.

On the other hand, journeying through mental illness, not to normal, but beyond, suggests individuality and courage imbued with gifts: insight, knowledge, awarenesses, enlightenment, perhaps humour ,and emotional sensitivities that allow you to experience life more intensely and deeply.

It’s hard being emotionally sensitive, too…

Karyn Hall in her engaging blog The Emotionally Sensitive Person wrote recently about the Gifts of Being Emotional Sensitive and as I am a very emotionally sensitive person, I identified strongly, though most people in my life view my emotional sensitivity as a deficit.

Oh, how I love reading all you wondrous bloggers. I learn so much. You make me feel good to not to be “normal.” Perhaps beyond normal.

I thank you.

P.S. This is the seventh straight day of posting on my Blogathon and the ninth post this week. So far, so good.

See you anon.

Image from Iron Diva

Day Seven: On Living “Beyond Normal”…

Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman is a Toronto freelance journalist.

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APA Reference
Naiman, S. (2012). Day Seven: On Living “Beyond Normal”…. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Jun 2012
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