“When will I be normal again?” is something every health care professional has heard time and again. These days most of us have been waiting for ‘everything’ to be normal again.

What is this normal that we all want and why is it so important to us? If you look up synonyms for normal you would find words like usual, standard or familiar. If we were to get more technical, normal refers to something that conforms to regular pattern. Abnormality is just being deviant from what is normal.

So why do we seek normalcy so much? Maybe because ‘normal’ also means familiar and familiar is easier to deal with. When we face ‘normal’ we know what to expect and how to deal with it. We all want to be normal, we want our circumstances to be normal and we want our lives to be normal. Even when we want to stand out, when we want to be different, it is within the realms of normalcy that we seek this deviation.

However there are times when this desire for normalcy; the need to be on familiar territory, itself becomes a problem. Normal itself becomes the disease and slowly starts spreading toxins into our system and our society.

Remember the three monkeys of society? How would the three monkeys of normalcy look like?

The ‘blindfolded’ normal: This is the kind of normal which prevents us from seeing the faults within us or within our society. It is a malice that most people in the society follow and therefore it becomes ‘normal’. People who talk against this ‘normal’ are labeled as abnormal and face the consequences. This has been a type of normal since ancient times, like the time Galileo was considered abnormal for believing something different that what was accepted as normal at that time. Or the time when conquering and wars were normal and a peace loving king was an anomaly. In more recent history,  denial of education to certain fractions of the society was normal. People who stood up against this were discriminated and executed. Even today people who choose a different lifestyle have been subjected to ridicule or even isolation or worse. This though is not just about big issues that concern our society at large. We tend to be blinded to problematic behaviours in us or people around us because they fit under the stereotype of normalcy. How many times have we turned a blind eye to domestic violence because it is considered normal? How many times have we forced our children to make choices which they do not want to because we were blinded by the concept of normalcy? How many times have we ignored the red flags in our life because they seemed normal? Why is it that we term a behaviour ‘normal’ when it is clearly toxic; just because it is expected standard behaviour? Unfortunately, it is easier for us to blindly accept the normal even when it is harming us than to deviate and try and change.

The ‘gagged’ normal: This is probably the most damaging kind of normal. The kind which prevents us from speaking up against what is bothering us because it falls under the cloud of normalcy. We hesitate to speak up against something that bothers us because we feel it is normal. If others are facing it and not talking about it, then why should we make an issue? We were brought up to minimize our sufferings because they are a normal part of the society. Something is considered a suffering only if its level goes beyond what is considered ‘normal’ by the society. Haven’t we normalized discrimination, violence and abuse because it is standard experience faced by many? How many people have kept silent about sexual harassment and eve teasing because these are things ‘everyone’ deals with? How many times have we missed out on depression and anxiety until it is too late because it is ‘normal’ to feel sad or scared? We need to learn to speak up against normal too. We need to know that normal needs a voice too.

The deaf normal: Often along with our failure to speak out against normal, we fail to hear against what is normal too. Again history has enough evidence of how we turned a deaf ear towards the plight of many because it was a norm at that time. From the screams of people being burnt at stake as witches to the cries of the slaves we have had a deaf ear to these ‘normal’ practices. Have we not at some point or the other, trivialized the suffering of someone, because it is ‘normal’. How many times have we told people that they need to stop being whiney and weak willed for speaking up about something that is a ‘normal’ part of life? How many times have we forced people to stay in abusive relationships because ‘such things’ are normal in a marriage? Have we not turned a deaf ear to a person complaining about gender discrimination because that is a normal pattern of behaviour in our society? Maybe tuned out an adolescent complaining about bullying because ‘everyone’ gets teased in school or college.

Why is it that we wait for a deviation from normal to accept that something is wrong? Is it really necessary for things to be drastically different from normal before we take action?

There are so many experiences that we could have prevented if we had understood that just because it happens to everyone, it is not ok. It is not alright for us to feel or do something because everyone else is doing it. It is not right just because it is normal.

Normalcy should be seen as something that brings about equilibrium and harmony. Normalcy is something that makes us healthy and active. Normalcy is not about being common, normalcy is about being mindful. Mindful of others and mindful of self…

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary