A perfectly normal person is rare in our civilization.
― Karen Horney
Looking out into the wide world one can easily conclude that people are really weird. There are lots of odd ones who engage in all sorts of irrational and odd behavior. I’m certain that I’m weird too. At the base of all this weirdness is a general lack of honesty and openness. No matter how much I might want to be honest and open, it is generically impossible. Generally speaking, if people could be more honest their behavior would make much more sense. Such honesty is breathtakingly hard to accomplish. In many cases honesty is punished brutally. To be honest is to risk judgement, confrontation, and ridicule from many quarters. Many of those engaging in these reactions themselves hide major portions of themselves for the same reasons. As a result of all this, people are weird, and their actions are not rationally explicable.
The differences in people add to the weirdness because I react to things far differently than others. I’m sure that many others are put off by my wiliness to directly confront issues is weird. In other ways I might dress or act weirdly. This could be a direct result of different tastes, lack of attention or reasoning that is completely hidden by secrecy. For other people who I’m judging as weird, the reasons could be exactly the same. Sometimes the secrecy is driven by shame, or a desire for privacy, or difficulty in managing any meaningful communication. For example, people are highly motivated by sex, but society is extremely sex negative. The combination is shame. People want things with passion yet are pushed to disavow these wants from any public face. We live in an increasingly hostile and judgmental world and many things that might engender these reactions are kept private. Some people simply can’t be bothered to communicate effectively. They simply don’t try. In other cases, if I communicated to you exactly what motivated me, the actions would be entirely sensible. The result is the appearance of unbridled weirdness.
Pushing all of these things out of society and organizations would be worthy progress toward a better World. Shame does nothing for anyone but drive natural behaviors and desires underground. Everyone would be better without its negative force on society. It only works as an engine for projecting someone else’s moral code onto an unwilling person. It creates a host of horrible side-effects that harm people. Desires for privacy are similar. We want things to be private because they are shameful. Some things are worthy of privacy like financial information because of potential for criminal conduct. Some things like a personal pain simply are not the subject of broad interest. In other cases, one wishes to only have certain things shared with a person whom they are intimate. All of this ultimately revolves back to communication. Our communication is the most important and essential aspect of our humanity. Without communication we are just animals. With it we are a society. A focus on doing it well is worth the effort.
The only people we can think of as normal are those we don’t yet know very well.
― Alain de Botton