Normality: Unattainable Ideal and Euphemism for Boring


Our culture promotes “fitting in” through “normality” as an ultimate ideal that all “disordered” people should strive to attain, and yet at the same time we often downgrade normality as the epitome of the predictable and boring, writes Tania Glyde in The Lancet Psychiatry. What sorts of confusions and struggles does this inherent conflict create for patients and therapists alike?

“And yet, in view of the apparent desirability, and seeming near-impossibility, of attaining the elevated state of being normal, it is perhaps surprising there are not more public affirmations of it, such as statues or street names,” writes Glyde. “And within alternative lifestyles, the word can be a euphemism for boring. Words containing norm (eg, heteronormative) are, at worst, spat out with derision. A gulf seems to exist between the meaning of normality as an outward state, and its desirability as an inward state.”

Contemplating her own many years of struggles to “fit in” to various ideals of normality, as both a patient and therapist, Glyde writes that in the end, “I can only sit with my clients and help them re-experience the world as a place where they can value themselves, and realise that they are not alone.”

Wanting to be normal (Glyde, Tania. The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 179 – 180, August 2014. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70325-6)


  1. Since there is no DSM category for normal, no one can be normal to the psychiatric practitioners, because the psychiatrists can’t get paid without labeling their patients with a DSM billing code. The psychiatric profession has set up a no win situation for every single patient who comes to them.

    Report comment

  2. Read Michael Warner’s “The Trouble with Normal.” It’s a late 90s semi-academic take the conservatizing of the gay rights movement, but it spends a huge part of it unpacking our ideas and values enmeshed with normality

    Report comment