Gabor Mate: The Myth of Normal

Click on the link for this short film of the wonderful Gabor Mate talking about culturally prevalent myths of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, and their unhelpful nature.

At this service, we also make sense of human experience in terms of a continuum which we all occupy – in ways that shift and change throughout our lives in response to our experience. Judgements about ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ owe more to social consensus, than therapeutic reality – in other words, such judgements are primarily (disempowering) political acts.

We also agree with his comments about the anti-therapeutic effects of living in our consumer-based society, and our need as human beings for some form of spiritual connection (which is not necessarily anything to do with religion).

We note wryly that – with what in the Western world would constitute a diagnosis of schizophrenia – research suggests it’s likely to be more helpful to be the inhabitant of an African or Indian village, than it is to experience our psychiatric models of ‘disorder’ and ‘treatment’……

Gabor’s comments about psychological ‘disease’ as a social construct put us in mind of some of R.D. Laing’s work and writing:-

“What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being. The more one sees this, the more senseless it is to continue with generalized descriptions of supposedly specifically schizoid, schizophrenic, hysterical ‘mechanisms.’ There are forms of alienation that are relatively strange to statistically ‘normal’ forms of alienation. The ‘normally’ alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken to be sane. Other forms of alienation that are out of step with the prevailing state of alienation are those that are labeled by the ‘formal’ majority as bad or mad.”

R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience/The Bird of Paradise

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

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