Should We Be Normalized or Maximized?

1385 Relax and Succeed - Ratehr than normalize them

In response to my previous post I wanted to clarify some of the references I made about my childhood accident, and how the pattern-recognition quality that emerged from it impacts how I listen to people during a session.

While it started in very elementary terms and extremely consciously, the patterns I now largely subconscious perceive –particularly in human speech and behaviour– are not unlike the way everyone learns to talk.

With both word-meanings and grammar, it is by seeing patterns repeated that we form useful conclusions and we learn to communicate. Children in some places can learn several languages simultaneously. I just do that same thing but I do it hyper consciously, so it’s like I’m an amped-up version of any normal person, noticing many more elements.

By a very young age this lead me to notice that both through body language and word choice –and things like when they chose to speak versus when they opted to stay quiet– individuals started clearly falling into broad ‘types’ that I later learned others had loosely defined using systems like, for example, the Enneagram.

No one knows the real origin of the Enneagram, and there is no standard form. Each author who writes about it is free to alter it to suit their needs, but that need not be an issue.

Ultimately, I find it is rarely helpful to use predetermined boxes to define an individual, which is why I carefully listen to each person as a unique case, using my unique method. That said, we all know that there are some key personality types, so basic, broad definitions are also not entirely without value.

In practice, it has proven very helpful that I found these ‘types’ on my own, the way I did, without learning them from external sources. Rather than learning them like a person might in university, I don’t listen to classify people or their actions into groups, which in turn I would connect with associated responses.

People who learn these types the other way can’t help that, it’s an innocent form of Confirmation Bias. It’s like the difference between some kid who has spent his life on the ocean and knows how to sail. Someone else can learn about sailing in school and then get on a boat after university, but they will always have this word-based layer between them and what the childhood sailor knows as essential self-knowledge.

Because I was starting from five years old, I had no predetermined categories or opinions, so instead I began by gaining an appreciation for how each person had equally been formed by their own experiences and even their genetics.

As an example, we’re not only formed by having a demanding parent, but how that parent came to be that way is also at play. Also, being tall is also a perspective that presents unique qualities that are distinct from being shorter. Etc. etc.

I’ve been doing this for 50 years now. This means that I have an awareness of tens or hundreds of thousands of influences in real time, which often leads me to ask completely different questions than others will. I am very grateful for what this accident provided me.

While medical and psychological systems understandably need conformity between peers –and I agree this has value– I often see cases where presumed definitions of people fail to fully capture the individual I am working with. Rather than overlapping definitions, they are often more a bit of this and a bit of that with some extra thrown in.

There are currently about eight billion people in the world, and each is in many groups, but they are also all unique to themselves. Yet, many of the people I see feel that they have been mis-categorized by psychology, and yet once that definition is on their file they can have difficulty getting anyone to see them otherwise.

1385 Relax and Succeed - What really matters is

What really matters is does a person know how to successfully be whoever they currently are? Can they learn to see reality in a way where they won’t need me? Many people may choose to continue seeing me because they enjoy the process of going deeper in a philosophical sense, but if they need me for years to feel basically healthy, then I’m not really helping them be self-sustaining.

In the end, everyone has their own unique individual sense of their self.  And because they will change with each new experience and thought, over time, any definitions that would be applied would also need constant updating anyway. Those facts make the need for any firm definition somewhat dubious.

To use an example from the previous post, I’ve always taken great pleasure in working with non-neuro-typical people, including those with tendencies toward the Autism or Asperger’s spectrum.

In my experience, if we were to put people on a spectrum of 1-10, where overly open, emotional and intellectually insecure people were a ‘2,’ and logically-minded, precise, but quick-to-anger Aspergery people were a ‘9,’ that would make the centre of the bell curve known as ‘normal’ into a ‘5,’

The world –and psychology in general– has, with the best of intentions, spent most of its history invested its energy in trying to push everyone toward being a ‘5.’ In other words, it sought to help people be ‘normal.’ Yet Einstein, Beyoncé, Mozart, Maryam Mirzakhani, and most brilliant male or female scientists would not be seen as ‘normal.’

This push towards ‘normalism’ is not something that makes sense to me at all. Many truly great caregivers or artists could be closer to 2’s or 3’s, whereas bolder, more confident, and calculating scientists or business-people can be 7’s or 8’s.

This all being the case, people should not assume sessions with me are about them becoming more normalized. To the contrary, I focus more on helping people find effective ways to be the way they already are. These can translate to changes in their language or approach to life, and it can also translate to changes in how they structure their lives or relationships.

If you want to change to become more like other people, then you may fare better with a university-trained therapist of some kind. But if you would like to find ways to feel good about who you already are, and how to make that possibly ‘weird’ person more effective, then you may find that working with me may better suit your needs.

In the end I trust you. The people who find it productive to work with me can often figure that out quite quickly when we talk, and it’s not surprising that many have tried many other forms of therapy before coming to me to increase their awareness. Whoever is best for you, you are the best source of feedback on whether or not you are getting healthier. Trust yourself.

In closing, here’s a link to a BBC piece on Autism that also suggests that, rather than trying to normalize everyone, the world would often be better to simply maximize some people as they are.

peace. s

Dealing with Down

I’m dating a woman whose son has Down Syndrome. I’ve always been uncomfortable around people with disabilities because I never know how to act. What am I supposed to do or what am I supposed to say when I’m with him?

Normally Uncomfortable

Dear Norm,

You’ve struck upon a subject near and dear to my heart. In fact one of the most surprising and welcome compliments I have ever received was immediately after I was spontaneously asked a somewhat nonsense question by stranger with Down Syndrome. The compliment focused on the fact that I had been very nice and fully attentive to a person that a lot of people might 363 Relax and Succeed - Keep calm it's onlyconsider awkward. I prefer to rewrite that in my head to mean that I see all people equally. I point that out because that distinction is important to what I will attempt to impart.

First off, don’t feel badly that you feel awkward. That’s just you being Human and who can blame you for that? It’s also why funerals are awkward, and karaoke is awkward, and even seemingly nice things like hiring someone can be very awkward. Anything we don’t do often will feel strange to us. But funerals don’t feel strange to funeral directors, and people who regularly attend karaoke don’t feel weird going up to sing, and Human Resources professionals who interview people for a living don’t feel strange telling someone they got the job. It’s only when we’re in a largely unknown context that we get the sensation for strangeness. So that feeling in you isn’t because her son has Down Syndrome, it’s because you have no experience on which to base your behaviour.

95% of what you do is mimicked. You walk like one of your parents, you talk like one of them, you hold the phone like someone, etc. etc. etc. But if you didn’t see something modelled then you have no idea what to do. You’re floating. You have an ungrounded, uncertain sensation that leaves you naturally feeling uncomfortable. But you’ll have your girlfriend’s experience to build off of. She’s obviously very comfortable with him so you’ll learn some things from her. And through direct experience you will also develop your own ways of meeting the boy on terms that work for him. But don’t think something’s wrong because you feel strange at first. That’s entirely normal when we’re learning to face any kind of situation. It’s just the feeling that goes with us sending out a request for an answer and our brain sending nothing back. The chemical result of that null response generates the sensation of discomfort.

363 Relax and Succeed - Accept then actRemember, this is no way to be with her son. There isn’t some special language to use, although granted you will learn strategies that may help deal with specific circumstances. But aside from those all you really need to do is be fully present with him. Don’t have thoughts about “oh I wonder if he wants this,” or “I wonder if he’s thinking that.” Just listen to him and respond as yourself. Be with him fully. Offer him all of you, without a restricting or limiting thought. Be Present. Listen as though he is a guru and you will know what to do. And if you don’t know, then do nothing. Because there is still a lot going on when we’re quiet and spiritually awake with someone.

Don’t over-think it. Don’t start spilling anxious chemistry out because you’re telling yourself that you should be able to predict, prepare for, or mitigate anything the child does. Even his mother will lose control sometimes. Just relax into it. Stop the racing, worried thoughts and breathe. Listen and respond. Trust me, you’ll get good at it sooner than you think. And for all we know, he could end up being more important to who you become than even she will. Either way, you have a relationship with her, but you also have one with him. So just live it authentically. Be yourself with him as he is himself with you. You’ll both be fine. Everything else is just thinking.

peace. s