Dissecting abnormal

Below are three sentences that I would like you to complete with one of the word options offered below. You can only choose each word once.

A child shows you a drawing of a pink grasshopper eating a green cow. You say, ‘That’s _____________.’

  1. odd
  2. different
  3. abnormal

Your partner admits to cutting the toe part off his socks to let his toes breathe.  You think, ‘That’s _______________.’

  1. odd
  2. different
  3. abnormal

You read a story about a genetically modified piece of fruit that has started to grow a beard. You think, ‘That’s ____________.’

  1. odd
  2. different
  3. abnormal

Some definitions:
Odd – puzzlingly different from the usual or normal.
Different – not alike, separate, unusual.
Abnormal – different to what is normal, or expected.
(Definitions sourced from Heinmann Australian Dictionary)

So we can see from the definitions above, abnormal is technically similar to different, odd and unusual. Experientially however, this term has been reserved to describe deformed, defected or warped. No wonder there is such a stigma attached to it (there is a stigma right or is it just me?).

I could handle being called peculiar, odd, insane, weird or strange (in fact I might take them as compliments) but if you really want to offend me then use the word that transcends all those mentioned and go for the jugular … ‘abnormal’. I may as well have 3 arms, 5 butt cheeks and gills.

So does abnormal belong on the bell curve? Not in its stigmatised version it doesn’t.

The bell curve is the shape that occurs where scores from a large enough sample are plotted as a frequency distribution. This is referred to as the normal distribution where most scores fall in the middle and as the scores either increase or decrease so do their frequency decrease. It looks something like this

Bell curve normal distribution

‘Scores’ could represent anything so decreasing and increasing does not always refer to intelligence or a similar scale reliant construct; it could refer to extroversion or introversion for example.

My point? We are all on the same bell curve and depending on what the distribution is representing, our location may change. You may be in the 50% of the of the population who we are obsessed with reality tv shows and you may also be in the 0.01% obsessed with only ever eating khaki green cupcakes.

So yes abnormal belongs on the bell curve to represent the ‘less frequent’ group meaning it doesn’t occur as frequent. It’s a game of frequency, numbers and conditioning, not an indicator of how human or defected one may be.

So if you ever get teased about something viewed as abnormal then respond with this: ‘this quality of mine that you feel is a defect is in fact something that makes me unique because not many people have this quality so thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to be different,’ then leave them to their jealousy and go tell someone else how you love what is different about them!


13 thoughts on “Dissecting abnormal

    1. Thanks for commenting, I love to hear thoughts.
      When you say ‘reason’ are you referring to the reason why the term abnormal has been stigmatised to mean something other than its true meaning?
      If so, then I do believe it is the intent that has created this stigma, not the word itself. Maybe not initially, but over time it has become a term used with the intent to offend or ostracise. What do you think?

  1. I think I skewed the curve – my test answers are: 1. pretty, 2. the way my mom always does it., 3. abnormal. Research and write a dissertation. (Yes, I attempt to modify the test, and will find a way to fit the square pegs into the round holes AND find a way to justify it.)

    I love what you wrote, and the last paragraph is the best! Celebrate the uniqueness that defines what makes you who you are 🙂

    1. Your answers are much more interesting and interesting is so much more interesting not to mention deserving of the effort of justification. Did that make any sense?
      Thanks for your compliments, it’s nice to hear you liked it and received something good from it.

  2. Now I know what happens to people when they study too much psychology! You are on your own bell curve with this one..he…he.
    Hey, but after your dissection of these labels I do feel somewhat more comfortable with being called ‘abnormal’ (ie ‘different to what is normal, or expected’). Must be so dreary out there for all those ‘normal’ people.

    1. It’s funny you mention that, about being ‘normal’ because I have a few thoughts on that too! No doubt that will be surfacing soon.

    1. Yes. Unless I am coming down from a sugar high in which case it’s as spacious as a football field. Why do you ask or are you making fun of me sister?

      1. You got me thinking! I wonder if craving sugar is a survival mechanism to stop the brain from overworking. The blood sugar drop after the rise provides the opportunity for the brain to rest in hibernation to prevent burn out. Is that what ‘Take a break with KitKat really meant?’ as well as the Rest in the Mars Bar ‘Work, Rest & Play’ slogan. Oh my goodness, I need to stop now. Going to your blog.

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