Has Impossible become your HSP Normal?

Is “normalising” as in “making the crazy feel normal” a verb? Google leaves me unsure, since normalising seems to be used mostly to describe bringing things back to a common standard. So, I might be flipping a word pancake upside down here. Either way, the word makes just as much sense – if not more – used this other way around: spend enough time with something crazy and it becomes the new normal…

If people keep putting shoe polish on your pancake, you learn to accept it as the Original Pancake Recipe over time. (That’s why you need to brush your teeth after a meal, to get rid of the shoe polish! How come nobody else knows this? Tsss)

We all normalize our reality in this way. It doesn’t matter if you were raised by wolves, spent many years on Planet Blubber (oh, the stench! – I mean, the sweet sweet smell of home), or were expected to walk three circles around the house before entering (+ pirouette and then carry your shoes on your head inside the house). Whatever it was, at some point you will have had to make peace with it and accept it as your normal. That’s a good thing, it’s adaptive behaviour, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got. Accepting how things are is part of that.

illustration of Highly Sensitive person talking to a wolf at a party tableHowever, if you were raised by wolves, and you –therefore- go through life expecting others to be like wolves, you’ve got a problem. Why? Because you’re creating all kinds of self-fulfilling prophesies. You’ll start to see or expect the wolf in everyone. If you meet a lovely giraffe on one fine morning, you won’t trust she’s a giraffe for real, you’ll be waiting for the wolf to come out.

Normalising our reality in this way is an adaptive behaviour to help us survive (and stop wasting energy fighting the inevitable) but it can also keep us stuck.

Here are some practical examples:

The woman who somehow, always ends up in relationships with narcissists and is now convinced that we are nation-wide dealing with an epidemic of narcissism. Why? Because she’s personally surrounded. She has come to accept narcissism as a kind of norm and so – without necessarily realizing it – she is fully expecting people to be narcissists. Hence, when a narcissist comes a-knocking, it doesn’t raise a red flag, instead, it comes across as “ah, this is reality!”.

How did she end up in a reality like that? She was probably surrounded by narcissists when she was little, or perhaps there was one parent who called all the shots and who was a narcissist. Either way, she had to “accept” this as her reality at the time and the scene has stuck with her as the only possible reality. In a way, it’s the only reality that she trusts is actually real. Hence, she’ll dismiss any alternatives.

Empath sponging is another good example. For a significant number of empaths I work with, it takes a considerable amount of effort to “wake up” from the “empath dream”. Let me explain what I mean by that.

As an empath, it’s really easy to ride along on all kinds of energies. It can be like a kind of cosmic ADHD, there is just so much to feel, so many feeling “rides” that you can take. It’s a lot like having a free-pass to Energy Disneyland. There are just so many rides you can get on, and they all bring their own thrill. Without a clear sense of inner direction, it’s easy to spend your whole life in Energy Disneyland, getting on all kinds of energy rides, be thoroughly entertained, yet also completely stuck in your personal life.

There is just so much to feel and empathize with and think about all day, that by evening, you don’t even know where your time went. It’s easy to normalize this and think that “that’s just what it’s like to be an empath”.

You don’t have to get on all those rides just because they’re freely available and interesting. If Energy Disneyland is all you know though, then how could you trust there is anything different and real outside its walls that would be welcoming to you?

So, on the far end of the normalising spectrum, suggesting that there are alternatives can come across as attacking your reality. It doesn’t matter how miserable that reality may be: you know it, you rely on it, and nobody gets to take it away from you. This is where normalising has turned into NO-malising.

These are the parts of your life that seem so obvious that it feels like there is no other way to do things.

Getting to the Next Level, within the same old game…

When you’re stuck in your own game reality of of “Space Attacks” or “Rainbows Shooting Everywhere”, you want to know the secret codes. You want to know how to pass this level and go to the next level. The next level is where it’s all at yo! It’s hard to see that the next level will just bring more of the same old same old, with a slightly different twist.

What are the life games you’re desperately trying to win at, even though getting you to the next level would just bring another level of the same old crap?

Quitting something like that isn’t easy. We invested so much time, how can we just decide to give up the game altogether? Who would we be in a different game environment? Now that you finally figured out how to use your spacebar to shoot the space balls from behind… who is that looney who is asking you to never mind those spaceballs altogether?

There are different levels of change. The deepest and most profound level is the one where we identify the rules of the reality we’ve been trying to play in. Whatever we had, were or had to do, it’s become a bunch of rules that we’re following, consciously or subconsciously. Those rules dictate our life reality: whether it’s a shooting game or a strategy game a board game or a bored game.

So, when someone makes a suggestion for (what they consider) positive change, and it feels like they’re trying to take your reality away from you, really sit with this question:

Are they trying to change who you most fundamentally are OR are they trying to show you a different game you could be playing, one that would be more fun and more satisfying?

Just because the suggestion feels violent, doesn’t mean it necessarily is.

(That said, if they’re trying to trade you “Game of War” for “Game of Annihilation” then the question above becomes moot and you can just say no without even thinking about it )

A Light-Hearted Guide to Narcissists
First aid reading if you're struggling with narcissists or maybe-narcissists
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