The Myth of Normal

‘Society generates (mental) pathology’ – i.e. much of it is avoidable. I have a lot of time for this point of view. Here’s (in my view) a great video on the subject:

I am no clinician, but have studied wellbeing from many different angles. As such I am more than sceptical about much of the medical ‘industry’ when it comes to diagnosis of mental health conditions and the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Dr. Gabor Maté talks about many conditions that are diagnosed as abnormal (such as anxiety, depression, addiction…), as being on a continuum much of which could/should be considered normal.

Normal is worse than over-rated as a  concept – it is dangerous.

Having worked with many hundreds of clients on their personality, behaviour, challenges and motivations, plus having lived with myself for 50 years and with others, I am firmly of the opinion that ‘normal’ is an over-rated and pretty useless concept. I’d go further and argue that it is often a very harmful and restrictive concept that promotes suffering. Compare this to the health and wellbeing giving power of compassion, acceptance and understanding, rather than labelling as abnormal.

When looking at the cost of poor mental health – to individuals and to the nation, The Audit Commission defined ‘Mental Health’ as: –

  • The ability to develop psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually
  • The ability to initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships
  • The ability to become aware of others and to empathise with them
  • The ability to use psychological distress as a developmental process so that it does not hinder or impair further development

… i.e. not just the absence of illness……physical and emotional well-being, the strength and capacity to live a full and creative life, the flexibility to deal with its ups and downs.

Whilst the importance of wellbeing is widely recognised, there remain very few robust and effective solutions that enable people to achieve it, as it has been defined above. Individuals are left to try to work it out for themselves and often spend a life-time trying different therapies and practises.

In our in-depth work with The Enneagram – the nine different egoic models of the world, we can clearly identify tendencies that each of the types have, which can, without sufficient personal resources (self-awareness/emotional intelligence/resilience, call it what you will), result in predictable challenges and mental health outcomes.

As Dr Mate, suggests, we also firmly believe that many of these are manageable, avoidable and recoverable from via a greatly improved level of self-awareness and a set of appropriate tools for developing life enhancing skills.

‘Soft’ skills – anything but…

These may get defined as ‘soft skills’ – they are often taught in a highly generic and superficial, one size fits all manner (often with very limited effectiveness). When the tools are taught and expanded on based on a robust model of the individual(s) concerned – in our case using the Enneagram in conjunction other powerful awareness building tools, they are anything but soft, and are typically jaw-dropping and life-transforming.

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