Editorial by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD, DLFAPA
I have often been asked what is normal in humans regarding their thinking, behavior, and their feelings. Here is my answer: A normal human being is a person that — given their genetic inheritance, plus early childhood shaping by the circumstances, modulated by genetic guidance — responds appropriately to fulfill their needs for their own survival, their social needs (of contributing and being contributed), exhibits behavior appropriate with the circumstances using rationality.
A normal person is most of the time glad that they are alive, with an available emotional tone, and free to use their genetic endowment for work and social interactions with society, their loved ones, and themselves… meeting unexpected challenges to an average degree (everyone has their breaking point).
People are born with temperamental variability that is their in-born behavior propensities, making the different make-up of people as we are. Some people will tend to be more of thinkers, others more of feelers, others more practical. All contribute to the benefit of the group they live with. Different people can meet challenges differently. A person with in-born social skills that were shaped by early childhood experiences will feel both more comfortable as well as more effective in their inputs in a social setting. A person who is more of a thinker will be more comfortable in contemplating alone or coming up with new ideas and solving problems.
Since every one of us has a breaking point, extreme circumstances, especially when mismatched with the temperament of the individual, creates transient disturbances of anxiety, depression, or inappropriate behavior. The trouble begins when an individual’s make-up is in the extreme range of temperamental variability. This creates, oddly enough, advantages for the individual such as ability to think outside of the box by a thinking inner-directed person, or, an extremely emotional person by background will be able to create social leadership and atmospheres and may even able to create music or poetry. Unfortunately, these same individuals with such extreme temperaments are now vulnerable to the development of mental difficulties. If it’s in the area of thinking, they may be disordered and not logical (delusional). The person’s feelings may not be appropriate and may be expressed as excessive emotionality, emotional depression, or emotional numbness.
In being in such a state, individuals think oddly (delusions), feel unhappy, sad, periodically explosive, and full of emotionality. They may also be forced to be over-vigilant, preoccupied with details, and developing anxious habits (obsessions). These conditions may be permanent, although they can be at times markedly improved — especially with modern medications and management — but they tend to recur as emotional crises and emotional breakdowns.
It’s important also to state that society may define an individual’s condition as normal or as abnormal according to the prevailing trends of the times. For instance, Alexander the Great in his times was a hero and a famous admired man. In our time, he might be considered a man with severe behavioral problems.
Conversely, under social pressures of a particular kind, people will develop different responses to the extreme. For instance, 100 years ago a victimized woman by the then-circumstances would under that time’s circumstances display “conversion hysteria” (i.e., odd passive social behavior like mannerisms, falling down as if she had major convulsions, all acting to recruit the sympathy and help of the prevailing social forces. “Conversion hysteria” in our present time has all but disappeared, but under the current circumstances, a woman not being helped to fulfill her needs by society may end up depressed, bulimic, or with drug use, and more. Thus, these individuals may be branded as pathological, ignoring the fact that society demands without providing support for circumstances such as extreme economic disparity.
Also, lack of structure promotes misbehavior. So, we can consider that — in a way — all of us are somewhat “abnormal”; each with his own vulnerability and strength.
The fact that our brain tries to do too many things, often contradictory, makes this more difficult. So we should always show affection and respect to each other’s predicaments and help if we can. We all are in the same boat, as it were.
Copyright © 2017 by Nicholas Pediaditakis, MD
For more information on Dr. Pediaditakis and his Raleigh NC mental health clinic, visit his Facebook page.
Dr. Nicholas’ blog may be read at chroniclersofthesoul.com.
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