April 11, 2017 Work 0
A picture of a scarecrow holding a sign saying 'allotment'

Normal vs. Abnormal

What is normal? What does it mean to be normal?

Abnormal? Different? Aberrant? Or even more so: Disabled? The problem does not arise in being normal – the problem arises when one works to define abnormal. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, abnormal is “deviating from what is… usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying”. This definition seems to be problematic.

Light and dark, good and evil, civilized and uncivilized; strange and everyone else. Roughly speaking, we’ve been hardwired to conceptualize things into terms which we can understand, such as good and bad. Perhaps it is this very dichotomy that has led to these misleading descriptions of that which is different from the usual. Other problems arise when you, as a potential psychologist, tell another person they are other than normal. Such a statement comes from an elevated position above the “abnormal” person, a position that can be problematic of itself.

It’s also interesting if we were to read this state as being remarkably similar to the philosophy of the “other”.

Philosophy of the Other

This idea of the other is most common in discussions about race and ethnicity, but such a theory has wide applications in other realms of human existence as well. The philosopher Homi Bhabha explains the other best in his work, Remembering Fanon, “The Other must be seen as the necessary negation of a primordial identity that introduces the system of differentiation… As a principle of identification, the Other bestows a degree of objectivity, but it’s representation … is always ambivalent, disclosing a lack.” Taking this tidbit, one can only contemplate the importance of this ‘lack’ belonging to the other.

In Conclusion

Now that I’ve covered some of the problems with the current definition, I come to the question of, “How, then, should abnormal be defined?” Seeing the difficulties humanity has with refraining from describing something in the context of another, placing a definition down without this dichotomy seems to be a virtually insurmountable task. However, it is not impossible. Based on my previous arguments, and keeping in mind the context of the other, I can make the attempt.

Culturally speaking, this has been viewed as the antithesis of the natural state of being, of containing a fundamental lack that prevents such a thing from fitting into the socially accepted version of humanity.


Is there a better definition for abnormal? Please contact me with any other definitions or ideas for definitions.