Recently our professor assigned us to consciously articulate and explain why we consider ourselves as “normal”. The answer seems too obvious, and asking such a question might even make someone wheeze into laughter, but according to my experience of going to school since I was three (and especially in answering math problems); the more obvious an answer is to a question, the harder the question itself is.
The question gives me almost the same feeling when I think about the words “ontology” and “epistemology”. These are jargon or terms used in a variety of disciplines, but it is particularly intensively studied in the social sciences. Ontology basically means the study of “what is” or what it is to exist, epistemology involves propositions which helps in identifying knowledge from opinion (I’m not very confident on how I defined epistemology, corrections are very much welcome). The question of “Why do you think you’re normal?” took me a whole weekend to decipher why and what makes me think that I am. Why did I spend so much time meticulously thinking about it? It’s because the first thought that came in my head the first time I heard it was, being normal is relative.
There is no absolute, transcendental criteria that will tell you you are normal.
Shit, what if there is an absolute criteria for that and it says that I am not really normal?
What if I’m the only person who thinks I am normal?
Who even invented the word “normal”? Why is there even such a word?
Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the numerous case studies I’ve been exposed to, or maybe because I am too considerate of each and everyone’s contexts that made me thought so. I was just trying to be careful to not end up with hasty generalizations of what “normal” is. People might appear normal to themselves or to those who deem close to them, but it might not be the case to strangers who barely know anything of them.
I’ve been friends with these four beautiful people since elementary, and up until now, the five of us have never went to the mall altogether at once. We always joke around that other people might find us too loud, particularly, “crazy” because we are vocal on a lot of things. Mind you, we are all females. You know how stereotypical people still are, you might not be blunt about it but the subtlety of the idea that females are expected to be boxed in this type of femininity still exists.
Anyways, my sole point there is, considering myself “normal” is relative to whom I compare myself with. It also depends on the context or situation one is in. If for example, I eat dogs (which I don’t in real life of course, I love dogs.) I may still appear normal in a culture where dog-eating is normal, otherwise I would be considered as a heartless, uncultured cannibal. (See culture relativism and culture ethnocentrism)
This too, reminds me of the Allegory of the Cave, which I first encountered in first year college. I remember my cool Physics professor with his brilliant mind and tattooed arms chronicling how the enlightened character in the story was considered insane, or not normal, for he was speaking of things nobody has ever known of before. And because knowledge is based on an agreement that something is true, his homies called him nuts because what he was saying was not considered true for nobody else agreed with him.
Disclaimer, the implication between the word “insane” to “not normal” is not mutual. An insane person surely is considered not normal in terms of certain things, but one can deviate from what is considered average without necessarily being insane. Do not confuse the two even though they look synonymous.
So does all this sudden recall of concepts at three fucking AM, concepts which are not even from just one discipline, helped me in answering the question posed by our professor in Abnormal Psychology? With my tea already cold on the table, I attempted to elegantly encapsulate my answer in two reasons. I have to emphasize on the word elegantly because we were challenged to explain ourselves for only a page of half a bond paper, this chaotic surge of ideas you are reading right now doesn’t pass that criteria enough.
… I consider myself normal for two reasons; (1) According to Babbie (2001), knowledge is based on an agreement that something, that is empirically based and logically structured, is true. The fact that I, and the people who surround and are related me, agree and consider me as normal, makes me think that indeed I am. (2) Aspects of me do not go beyond what is normal as well. (i.e., physically, psychologically, emotionally, etc.) I do not have something that is so striking or unique that it has never been found on other humans which makes me consider myself normal for that matter.
You can imagine my friend laughing in my face last night after asking me what has been vacating my mind for I have been blankly staring at my notebook as I thought of my homework. I seriously asked, “Why do you think I’m normal?”, and she just laughed at me with a mocking are-you-kidding-me face.