There is a reason why in cultures which practiced ritual sacrifice, no one was mortified at the sight of a person being killed in a ritual ceremony. There is a reason that no one thought anything was out of order when in the 11th century, no one used forks because they were seen as blasphemous. There is a reason why people found it normal in ancient Rome to wear an erect and often winged penis around their neck to represent Fascinus (one of their gods) in the same way that Christians of today wear a cross. There is a reason that in middle ages and even longer (really before germ theory came along) people supported the practice that surgeons not clean and sterilize their surgical equipment, in fact a surgeon could be fined or go to jail for doing so. There is a reason that no one found it odd or upsetting that by the 1600s in Europe well over half of all women sent their babies away from home at birth to live with and be nursed by another woman. Even higher-class wet nurses sent their own babies away to be nursed by poorer wet nurses. Up to 80 percent of them died in their infancy, most en-route to their wet nurses who often lived far away. There is a reason that no one thought anything of a pregnant woman smoking and drinking alcohol in the 1950s. The reason for all this is that it was “normal”. Human beings tend to acclimatize to, and then accept, whatever situation we find ourselves in. This is even more true when we are children. Whatever we experience as common in our environment, becomes our idea of normal.
What is normal? Normal is whatever conforms to a standard, is usual, typical or expected. The thing is, normal is not a measure of health. This is why the famous quote by Krishnamurti “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” is so important. Normal can become a blinder through which we see the world. It can be a way of staying in denial, remaining unconscious and never being able to heal or progress.
A critical part of becoming aware and progressing is to be able to clearly see cause and effect. This is part of what helps us to decide to make a necessary change. Many of the things that had a profound negative or even positive effect on you, you may not even recognize because you saw them as “normal”. If you see something as normal, it will not stand out to you as anything of interest or anything notable. You may completely overlook it.
But this tendency can go much further than the human tendency to not realize that something is out of alignment when it is ‘the norm’. It can in fact serve as a negative coping mechanism. When we normalize something, we can avoid the pain that might be involved with seeing something as not right and not good. For example, imagine that in our childhood it was common and typical for both parents to be away from home all day working. Because it was normal, we don’t see the emotional neglect we suffered. By normalizing it, we don’t see that emotional neglect had a profound effect on our psyche. For example, we don’t see how it has led to the pattern of selecting unavailable partners as an adult and ending up so depressed and lonely that we are on psychiatric meds. Because it was ‘normal’, we don’t see how unhealthy our societal structure is, so we do nothing to change it. We don’t have to see that our parents hurt us, so we don’t have to acknowledge any rupture between ourselves and them. We can follow in their footsteps, thus validating what they did with us (which establishes closeness). We can get through Christmas as if we have a perfectly normal, functional family, which means no family conflict. We can stay in denial about the whole thing. But the problem is, the effect is still there. We just can’t attribute it to a cause, much less the correct cause. By the way, if you want to learn more about emotional neglect, because this is a big thing that is being normalized by people today, watch my video titled: Today’s Great Epidemic and How to Cure It.
Normalization is also a social control tactic that a person uses to desensitize another person to something that might cause distress in order to get them to accept it or agree to it. This is how the normalization of deviance can come about. It might be tempting to think that normalization as a control tactic is something only sociopaths or deviants or abusers use with victims. It isn’t. In fact, parents love to use this tactic to justify their behavior. How many of you have confronted your parents about certain things that occurred only to hear them retort, “every parent did that. In fact, you got it so much better than most kids”.
In this same vein, something that goes hand in hand with normalization is minimization. To minimize something is to downplay the significance of it. When you use minimization against yourself, it is a form of self-deception. You do it to avoid acknowledging and dealing with negative emotions and painful beliefs associated with them by reducing the severity and negative impact and importance of the events that gave rise to those emotions and beliefs. You also do it to avoid interpersonal conflict. It allows us to rationalize and justify and negate. When it comes to normalization, our favorite way to minimize is through comparisons. Things like “I went through the usual stuff… unlike those other kids who came from alcoholic homes or those kids in other countries working in sweat shops”.
When someone does it to you, it can be a form of invalidation and even potentially manipulation, abuse and gaslighting. If you want to learn more about gaslighting, you can watch my video titled: Gaslighting (What is Gaslighting and How to Heal from It).
Normalization makes the process of becoming aware of, acknowledging and changing a pattern impossible. When it comes to personal growth, it is a favorite tool of resistance. I would be rich beyond measure if I got money every time I was trying to make a person aware of the true negative impact and importance of some occurrence in their life and they said “yeah… but I mean, that was common, it’s not like I knew anyone else who didn’t experience that”. Many go on to minimize by saying things like “well I mean it’s not like I was getting raped or was starving to death like some other kids.” Any time a person normalizes like this, just imagine the very thing that needs to be resolved, popping up in front of a person and them saying “nah… that’s not it”, and stuffing it below the floor boards.
There is an expectation that if something is normal, if ‘everyone is doing it’ or if ‘that’s just the way things are done’ then it must be right or good. This tendency to equate what is normal with what is good or right can be very, very dangerous. There is also an expectation that if something is normal, it will not have a negative effect on someone. Just because something is normal does not make it right or good. And just because something was or is the norm, does not mean the negative impact of it somehow doesn’t exist. The law of cause and effect is in order, regardless of whether or not something is common.
Guess what? The things you experienced absolutely effected the trajectory of your life regardless of whether they were common practice or normal or not. You must recognize cause and effect. Things you would at face value write off as insignificant can be the very traumas that are ruining your life today. Instead of normalizing it, you need to see the actual impact of things like being weaned, new siblings being born, the punishment and reward style of parenting, being one of thirty kids in a classroom, being expected to do what pleases your family no matter what you truly want, not having certain emotional needs met, growing up with a single parent, being teased, eating processed foods etc… You will never be able to heal what you cannot acknowledge and let yourself feel and consciously change. You will never be truly aware if you simply accept something or write something off because it is ‘normal’.
It might just be beneficial to ask yourself and really put some though into: What if this thing I think is normal, really isn’t? And what would be so bad or what would it mean if this thing I consider normal is really not right, not good and not ok? And never ever forget that one day, those things that you don’t bat an eye at today, might just be the things that cause people in the future to look back at you in horror.