We all have our own inner normal, our very individual idea of how a normal person lives in the world. After all, we only know ourselves, or at least we can only know ourselves really well. We first experience every other person from the outside. As a child, you naturally assume that all other people in certain situations or in connection with certain things feel the same as you do.
At some point we learn that people are different, perceive the world differently and react to it differently.
We learn that there are other realities than our own. We learn that our personality, our experiences, our impressions, our genes all shape our reality to some extent. Our reality in the sense of our experience and processing of external reality.
We learn that normality is relative, that the norm is often only a calculated average that is not reflected exactly in the reality of life.
This remains a theoretical story for the time being. Only when we think about it does this realisation play a role. In everyday life, our inner normal rules. We are surprised that someone misunderstands something. Or that someone overlooks the obvious, draws completely wrong conclusions or does something stupid in our eyes. Many people have told me that they just do not understand this colleague or that relative, that they cannot understand how the person could react „so strangely“. After all, it is „quite obvious that one (…) has to do exactly this – namely (…) – and not, for example, (…)!“
We are so caught up in our own world view, in which we ourselves are the measure of all things, in which our normal is valid, that it takes a conscious step to detach ourselves from it.
It helps to take a step back and look at the other person from a more neutral perspective. Take the time to ask yourself: who is this person and how did they come to behave this way? „Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.„* I like this image of having to consider the immediate reality of someone else’s life, even though I tend to think about what that person has gone through in the past, what experiences they have had and what early imprints may be influencing their behaviour today.
Since I know that I am one of those highly intelligent people who can process a wide variety of information quickly and with comparatively little effort, I also ask myself in conflict situations: does my counterpart perhaps simply have a slower inner normal?
Recognising our own difference, the individual nature of our inner normal, can be a big step towards more serenity.
Especially if you have recognised your giftedness only later in life, it is often not easy to adequately correct the self-image that has grown over decades. Sadness over missed opportunities is accompanied by anger over difficult experiences of rejection, doubt, and loneliness. The processing takes time, that is without question, and yet in the realisation of having an extraordinary inner normal lies the seed for a more contented, more appropriate, and more joyful life. Also, or especially, in dealing with people who are very, very different from yourself.
I wish you much happiness and many surprises on your way.
Sincerely, wherever you are now,
*I tried to find the origin of this saying. It has been credited as North American aphorism, and others say it comes from a poem by Mary T. Lathrap, Judge softly, from 1895. I dare not say what came first.
P.S. I would love to hear about your inner normal in the comments.