You want me to change, right? Well just like you don’t try to get a baby to run before he can walk, you don’t try to get me to change until you’ve done the basics with me. And the absolute basic I have to ‘get’ before change is even a vague possibility, is that my life as I am currently living it is not ‘normal’. Most of what I have seen and experienced in my life should never be considered anywhere near that.
And in trying to help me see this, you really have your work cut out cos I am the King of Normalisationtown. Show me the most fucked up, messed up thing, and I will make it normal. It’s survival. Mental survival in its basest, purest form . Normalising the crap in my life keeps me sane. Never mind whether it is in fact normal, hell it keeps me normal. No-one wants to feel like a freak. I just want to fit in, to be like everyone else and if thinking everyone else experiences the stuff I do, makes me normal, then that is what I will do.
So if you try and tell me that something in my life is not normal, expect some flak; some serious fireworks in your face. Cos when you tell me that my life is not normal, you are telling me that I am not normal, and no way do I want to sign myself up to that freak club. Like it or not, the crap in my life is part of my identity. If you start messing with my perception of my life, then you are messing with my identity, which is just about the riskiest thing you can ask anyone on this planet to do, let alone a comprehensively messed up person like me. Think a minute, how would you like it?
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get me to see that my life is not normal. Cos as I said before, you won’t be able to get me to change my behaviour until I do. My behaviour, my ‘acting out’ as you professionals like to call it, is a response to what I have experienced.
You see, even though I have normalised stuff in my life to make it more bearable, I still do, deep-down really know that what I have experienced is NOT normal. So I‘ve got this whole inner conflict thing going on, or inner turmoil. My attempts at normalisation and the subsequent inner conflict this causes are like a boiling pan that keeps on spilling over, making a hell of a mess. And the daft thing is that I will keep on trying to shove the mess, my behavioural eruptions, back in the pan and label them normal too. My desire for inner logical consistency forces me to do this. I have to normalise everything for my alternate reality to work. Problem is that this is no long term strategy. The pot will end up boiling over big time, and my ‘normal’ world will fall apart.
At this point you are probably thinking that you should just give up- far too complicated, too messed up. You need to address this issue, but if you do I will see it as a personal assault and will erupt in your face. If you don’t address this issue, then my behaviour will not change and you won’t really achieve much with me. I guess that’s why I get called ‘unworkable’ so much.
But there is a way. It’s cunning, but it’s one of the best ways to get me to see my life for what it is. Don’t talk about me.
Tell someone that their life is not ‘normal’ and you get their backs up immediately. It is a moral judgement and it is patronising as hell. And what teen do you know that likes to be patronised? Little Goody-Two-Shoes doesn’t like being patronised and neither do I.
So who are we going to talk about then? Well anyone but me. Show me someone else’s life where they have seen unimaginable things and regularly do crazy things and I will talk to you about their messed up lives and messed up behaviour. Hell, I might even tell you what they need to do to sort out their lives. I might not always see it immediately, but with your guidance I will come to see the lack of normality in another person’s life. You see, everyone loves to talk about other people, to judge their behaviour, their actions, to analyse them to a much higher degree than they would ever do to themselves. Look at the amount of people chatting about Big Brother, giving their ten cents worth. Talk about others, out comes the social microscope, talk about me and the microscope is shoved aside.
You get me talking about others by showing me films, tv programmes, anything where there are parallels between my life and the lives of the people in the films. You’ll probably find that I’ve watched half these films already because I’ve needed to so that I can point at them and say- ‘Look, that’s the same as me. It’s totally normal’. But if you watch them with me and discuss what is going on, we un-normalise the behaviour for the people in the films, and consequently hopefully un-normalise the behaviour for me.
Over time I may start to make the parallels between their lives and mine. I will gradually over time, think through my perception of my life and bit by bit alter those perceptions to something nearing reality. And as I do so, the pan of inner turmoil will go from a raging boil to a simmer, until hopefully one day I will just stop boiling all together. The inner conflict will be gone- my view of my life will be at one with my deep down subconscious understanding of how it should be.
I might do this completely for myself or I might need some gentle encouragement / steering from you. But whatever you do, do not tell me outright that my life and behaviour is not normal. Take me to the edge, but that is all you can do. I have to discover this for myself.
By doing it this way, starting with others then moving on to me, by taking it slow, you give me time to form new perceptions of my life, and therefore give me time to reform my identity. Tell me outright that my life, and by association that I am not normal, then you kneecap me; I fall to the ground. Give me time and encouragement and I will still be able to stand as I rebuild myself. It is generally less messy that way; it involves less kickback from me- less abuse, less violence, less police.
So in short, looking at others, helps me look at me. Seeing their mess helps me see my mess and helps me to hope and yearn for more in my life. My definition of ‘normal’ changes, but my desire to be ‘normal’ does not. And so the behavioural and life changes begin. I’m beginning to walk, you’ve just got to help me.