Thursday, 30 April 2015

Acting normal

We're all so good at acting normal, aren't we? I guess at least 50 per cent of the population are somehow screwed up but you wouldn't know it. We've all perfected the art of putting on an appropriate public persona and keeping whatever is festering away inside very carefully hidden.

Most of us have been messed-up by one unfortunate experience or another - drug abuse, alcoholism, violent partners, childhood bullying, workplace bullying, extreme mental health issues, stalking, strange obsessions and compulsions, you name it.

Yet to most people we seem quite mentally and emotionally healthy, going about our daily lives in an unassuming way, not showing any signs of inner turmoil or distress, apparently well able to cope with whatever life throws at us.

Only occasionally do we let slip some small clue, some oddity, that makes people wonder if we're as normal as we seem to be. Usually it's only our loved ones, or our closest friends, or a therapist, who are privy to some secret agony that's tearing us apart and which we're desperate to end.

Many of these hidden torments are things other people wouldn't understand or sympathise with. Or we're deeply embarrassed and ashamed of them. Or we don't want to expose how much pain and hurt they cause us. So we keep our lips sealed and deal with the anguish as best we can.

As you know, I have plenty of neuroses and hang-ups of my own. Some of them I've revealed but others I seldom confide to anyone. If people were more open-minded, more tolerant, more compassionate, I wouldn't need to be so secretive, but the fact is that prejudice and intolerance are widespread. Anyone revealing something a bit out of the ordinary can be vilified.

So like most people I'm adept at acting normal. Or so I believe. But more than likely my engrained eccentricities are all too obvious to everyone. Just don't probe them too deeply. There might be an alarming shriek of pain.

PS: After Ione Wells wrote about an experience of attempted rape, more than 50 people confessed on her website to similar experiences and said they were previously too afraid or ashamed to speak out. A number of students at her university confided similar experiences to her. And I bet that's just the tip of the iceberg.

32 comments:

Bijoux said...

I think most people confide and let down their guard amongst friends. True friends will not judge you and will accept you for who you are.

Grannymar said...

Nick, Confessions start at.... ;) Seriously, I am not easily shocked by what anyone tells me, we are all unique and have our own hidden shadows.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Among close friends, sure. But then a lot of people don't have close friends so they just have to keep things bottled up.

Grannymar: I'm not easily shocked by other people's personal foibles, but they seldom confide in me. It seems I just don't have the right sort of face.

John Gray said...

"We're all so good at acting normal, "
Speak for yourself

Wisewebwoman said...

Nick:

I'm pretty open with most of my life but a few bits stay hidden, I don't know why. Not hidden from 2-3 friends though, I've shared all the kaka.

I'm thinking deeply about what you're saying as one of my deepest fears is "oversharing" and being considered this needy old witch that everyone avoids.

So there, that's one of my secret right out there.

XO
WWW

Cheerful Monk said...

I'm not sure what "normal" is. My lifestyle is certainly different from a lot of people I know. I don't belong to groups or go to parties, and Andy and I each have our own projects --- parallel play. We also have a good time when we're together. If I have anything I need to work through I do it through journal writing, self-hypnosis, whatever. I'm my own best friend in those areas.

Dave Martin said...

If people in general were better at listening, being non-judgemental, and more willing to give time to others then we'd all be in a better place mentally, apart from therapists who'd have to look for alternative employment.
Personally I have so many quirks, neuroses, hangups and worries that I spend my time trying to suppress that if I was to allow it all to be visible then I'd probably be dragged off to the loony bin. And that's another worry for the list right there...

Nick said...

John: You're a glorious exception. Totally yourself and you don't care who knows it! You wouldn't know normal if it slapped you in the belly!

www: That got me thinking. I'm a bit nervous about oversharing as well. I often feel I'm saying too much about myself and it might be better to shut up.

Nick said...

Jean: I tend to work through things on my own as well, not having any close friends to help me out. But my blogmates often come up with very illuminating insights.

Dave: I rest my case! Re all the hidden hang-ups, that is. Indeed, if we were more sympathetic to other people's difficulties and abandoned all the knee-jerk reactions, everyone would be better off.

kylie said...

nick, you are so far off the truth here. most people's scars are reasonably visible and having visible scars doesnt stop people from being "normal", if anyone is normal.

the people worth knowing are usually ok about our neuroses and foibles if we will trust them enough to be honest but cover ups and dishonesties are insulting

Nick said...

Kylie: I don't think so. People's scars can be totally hidden unless they choose to reveal them. How can you see that someone has been raped or suffers from depression or is being bullied by their boss? Only they know that unless they talk about it.

Of course people worth knowing are okay about our hang-ups but what if the people you happen to know are not so sympathetic? I have to say that in my own experience, honesty has often been met by outright hostility. Which is why cover-ups are unfortunately necessary.

Nick said...

www: I don't really think so-called oversharing is a problem. Why shouldn't we reveal anything we want to, anything that's important to us? I think the true problem is blinkered people who simply Don't-Want-To-Know.

susie said...

What Dave said...starting with Personally.

Nick said...

Susie: Exactly. I know your thing about feeling fine. Fucked-up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Which I totally identify with. As he says, given other people's attitudes, letting it all hang out could easily lead to a spell in the funny farm.

Cheerful Monk said...

Why are you still festering? Why not get some professional help if you need it, work through it, and move on?

Nick said...

Jean: I don't need professional help. It's a lot more complicated than that. But I'm not prepared to elaborate.

In any case, professional help doesn't always solve someone's problems. They may go too deep to be more than mitigated a little.

Cheerful Monk said...

I was just responding to your use of the word "festering". That implied something serious. Perhaps it was too strong a word.

Nick said...

Jean: Festering is the right word. And it does imply something serious. But don't start imagining all sorts of alarming possibilities. They'll probably all be wildly wrong!

Keith Smith said...

When I get screwed up, I make sure everybody knows it!

Then when I've ruined their day, I feel so much better! Ha!

Cheerful Monk said...

I'm not imaging anything, but I am a bit curious.

My guess is we're very different. I think of myself as a creative person, and when I have areas that bother me I'm more apt to make changes in myself. It's taken a lot of time and study, and it's not for everyone, but I became fascinated about the possibilities when I was around 16. It's been a great trip so far, but I will no doubt be tested in the coming years. Andy and I are at the age when big changes could happen any day.

Nick said...

Keith: I hope you're joking.

Jean: I know what you mean about changing yourself, and I've changed mentally and emotionally in a lot of ways over the years. But this is something in a different league altogether.

Keith Smith said...

Nick: Whenever I put "Ha!" at the end it means it is a joke, but sometimes I really feel like letting off steam, but like yourself, I try to act like a normal sane person and keep my hangups to myself.

Rose Blackthorn said...

I think bloggers naturally over-share, it is our nature. Otherwise we'd be "normal".

Don't know about "normal", tried it, didn't like it. Plus, I tread warily around people who say they have a lovely life and everything's going swimmingly all the time.

There are some things that aren't for public consumption and as I've got older, I share less and less with people. Partly because I've worked through the issues, traumas etc, mostly because what's done is done. Constantly re-visiting the past only gives it greater power over my present and future. For me, the past is done. It only exists in my imagination. Therefore, I let something far better occupy my mind.

Nick said...

Keith: Funny how "normal" tends to mean sane, happy and free of hang-ups. In fact statistically, normal must include common hang-ups like phobias, obsessions and anxiety.

Nick said...

Rose: A very sensible attitude re sharing less and less because most of it's all done and dusted anyway. That tends to be my own attitude. But I'll dig up the past if someone else is interested and they might have some useful insights. Then again, some things simply aren't done and dusted and keep coming back to haunt me.

Rummuser said...

I was estranged from my father for thirteen years till my late wife made it impossible for me not to reestablish contact as he had by then become my son's grandfather. I never did have a great relationship with him even when towards the end of his life he came and spent four years with me as his caregiver, thanks again due to the same late wife;s goading. My other siblings would have nothing to do with him but were willing to share the expenses. One sibling came and stayed with me for six weeks during the time that he was with me withour having spoken one single word with him during those six weeks when he looked after my household during my convalescence after surgery. Nuts, we are all to some degree or the other and some of us can do what needs to be done for reasons other than noble motives while loathing every minute of it.

Nick said...

Ramana: It's a terrible situation when you feel obliged to look after someone you can't stand, and nobody else is willing to help. I'm glad you're now free of that burden and have the chance to live life as you wish.

I was estranged from my father for around 20 years. Luckily I didn't have to look after him at any point.

Rummuser said...

Nick, I feel really like kicking myself, That was in response to your later post on estrangement. Please forgive me. But the comment and your response in that context is perfect.

Rummuser said...

Nick, by now you know of course that for me being abnormal is normal. What will you do with someone like me around?

Nick said...

Ramana: I thought that comment must have been on the wrong post. But you have my response!

I'm glad to know someone so thoroughly abnormal. A most refreshing situation!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Given my line of work, it's about impossible to shock me. But most of the time, what people think is not normal about them, isn't. Having quirks or fears r what have you isn't not being normal. It would be abnormal if we were all clones. That's what made the Stepford Wives so creepy.

Nick said...

Agent: True, it's very normal to have quirks and fears. When I said that people hide the quirks and fears and act "normal", I suppose what I meant was that they act as if nothing at all is wrong with them and they find life very straightforward.

The Stepford Wives is very creepy!