2.4 Are you pathologically normal?

This site addresses many important, unpalatable, corrupt, and sometimes shocking socio-political trends and psychological realities without much qualms. Many of these uncomfortable realities are hardly ever described in full in the mainstream media, so they will be new for many. The existence of ignored corruption, abuse, and depravity is a real problem of our time and will be addressed [elsewhere]. But much worse is the near complete adaptation to these and other profoundly pathological aspects of our societies. This adaptation can explain both why the corruption exists and why it is ignored.

So a question you can pose to yourself is how normal you consider the profoundly abnormal and even pathological aspects of your society? And how well are you adapted to it? Do you accept whatever seems normal, as normal and desirable and do you support its perpetuation? Or are you at the other side of the spectrum and do you secretly or overtly mistrust or question everything that is normal, simply because it is normal. Probably you are somewhere in the middle by having a nagging feeling that many things that are normal and unquestioned are not as good as they should be.

This site assumes that very little in our societies in truly healthy and optimal and much is pathological and deeply suboptimal. [3] So pathological and suboptimal in fact that many do not even know what healthy and optimal is anymore and might not even know in what direction health and optimality can be found.

One of the most damning and precise descriptions of pathological normality is given by Aldous Huxley in ‘Brave New World Revisited’ [Huxley, 1958] where he quotes Erich Fromm (needs sourcing).

PathologicalNormality
PathologicalNormality

Our “increasing mental sickness” may find expression in neurotic symptoms. These symptoms are conspicuous and extremely distressing. But “let us beware,” says Dr. Fromm, “of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symptoms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting.”
The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness.
These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish “the illusion of individuality,” but in fact they have been to a great extent de-individualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity. But “uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too [4] … Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.” (Emphasis added)

In the course of evolution nature has gone to endless trouble to see that every individual is unlike every other individual. We reproduce our kind by bringing the father’s genes into contact with the mother’s. These hereditary factors may be combined in an al​most infinite number of ways. Physically and mentally, each one of us is unique. Any culture which, in the interests of efficiency or in the name of some political or religious dogma, seeks to standardize the human individual, commits an outrage against man’s biological nature.

The last paragraph of the quote shows that people like Aldous Huxley (and Fromm) were intimately familiar with the characteristics of authoritarianism (which forms a core concept of this site). The first two paragraphs lead to a very useful description of ‘pathological normality’ that can be contrasted to “healthy normality” as its healthy opposite.

Two forms of normality
Pathological normality Healthy normality
Absence of symptoms of conflict through total submission to an unhealthy reality Self-initiated activities to improve aspects of unhealthy reality
Suppressed humanity Expressed humanity
Illusion of individuality, while being de-individualized Genuine individuality, expressing of uniqueness, exploration of diversity
Conformity developing towards uniformity and lack of freedom Self-initiated original contributions to society
De-individualization (like an automaton) destroys the basis for mental health Well-developed individualization forms the basis of self-initiated and self-maintained care of the physical and mental self.

Pathological normality, so defined, is characteristic of the most disempowered individuals. These individual should have symptoms of conflict, but they do not because of a complete stultification of self-empowerment: there is no personality left to rebel and no idea what to rebel for. There is no individuality and no agency to rebel and the result is indeed an automaton with very little understanding of, or interest in, its role in a wider societal machine. This is the state-of-mind of the population that is coveted by those who shape and maintain a dictatorship: the pathologically normal do anything they consider normal. And they can accept the most unethical as normal. So they are the obedient unquestioning subjects for a dictatorship.

They do not even realize they are part of a dictatorship, because they have no idea what their full potential might be.
Do you have an idea of what your full potential is, or might have been?

Hannah Arendt [1963] provides a great example of pathological normality in her well-known analysis of Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann was the bureaucrat responsible for the Endlösung, and she describe him as an example of the “banality of evil”. She could also have used the term pathological normality.

Throughout the trial, Eichmann tried to clarify, mostly without success, this second point in his plea of “not guilty in the sense of the indictment.” The indictment implied not only that he had acted on purpose, which he did not deny, but out of base motives and in full knowledge of the criminal nature of his deeds. As for the base motives, he was perfectly sure that he was not what he called an innerer Schweinehund, a dirty bastard in the depths of his heart; and as for his conscience, he remembered perfectly well that he would have had a bad conscience only if he had not done what he had been ordered to do — to ship millions of men, women, and children to their death with great zeal and the most meticulous care. This, admittedly, was hard to take. Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him as “normal” — “More normal, at any rate, than I am after having examined him,” one of them was said to have exclaimed, while another had found that his whole psychological outlook, his attitude toward his wife and children, mother and father, brothers, sisters, and friends, was “not only normal but most desirable” — and finally the minister who had paid regular visits to him in prison after the Supreme Court had finished hearing his appeal reassured everybody by declaring Eichmann to be “a man with very positive ideas.” (Emphasis added)

Eichmann never thought he was evil, on the contrary he had been obedient and loyal to his masters and had tried to be as normal and moral as one should be?

Should you?


  1. The reason why so little is suboptimal is the logical consequence so much being standardized. Global uniformity and local optimization are incompatible.  ↩

  2. Note that Huxley uses the same argument about uniformity being incompatible with something healthy: ‘freedom’ in particular the freedom to optimize one’s own situation and mental health.  ↩

References:

  • Huxley, A. (1958). Brave new world revisited. (1st ed.). New York: Harper.

  • Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem (pp. 1–312). Viking Press.