Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Mental Health and Getting Back to Normal

Mar 16, 2023 01:19PM ● By John Waterbury

Really? After this pandemic settles down, do we really want our lives to go back to normal? I hope not. “Normal living” was not everything that it was cracked up to be.  In fact, when I looked up synonyms for the word “normal” I wasn’t overly impressed with the word.  Some of them included:  typical, common, ordinary, standard, usual, regular, routine, commonplace, habitual, expected, every-day, average, run-of-the-mill, unremarkable, plain, simple, vanilla, a dime a dozen, predictable, and in essence…BLAH!!!  Is that the kind of existence that we want? Is that what we dream our grandkids will be? Is that the kind of life that we want for our future? I hope not.

About 40 years ago, a friend of mine, Michael King, Ph.D., wrote a book titled, “What’s the Fantasy Behind That Smile” in which he identified a variety of definitions for a “normal” life.  It was a very insightful book 40 years ago, but with the onset of this recent world-wide Coronavirus rampage, these definitions have taken on a much greater significance. (I’ve listed some of them in this article, and I’ve added a few comments on each.)    

• We try to be real people and not play roles. Unfortunately, many people dislike themselves and think they have nothing of significance, so they hide behind a façade that they create.

• We are positive but realistic about life. Many (like Chicken Little) are certain that the sky is falling and that the end is near.

• We take responsibility for our feelings and actions. Too often, we blame others for our reactions and feelings, thereby absolving ourselves of any responsibility.

• We have a good self-image and maintain a balance in life. It’s sad to say that many don’t feel they fit in with others who seem to have everything that they lack. 

• We plan for the future but live one day at a time. Others are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and they build walls around themselves to protect them from a scary world.

• We have a well-defined set of standards and values. Without these standards, there is a tendency to let others set our standards for us.

• We strive for success, not mediocrity. Many strive for mediocrity because they believe they deserve nothing better.

• We strive for independence in our thoughts and actions. Many strive for codependence where they give control of their lives to others.

• We conquer our fears by facing them. Many live in a self-imposed emotional prison, believing that they’re incapable of out-running their fears, and believing that there is no hope for the future.

In conclusion, maybe one of the greatest results of the Coronavirus is that it will force us to redefine ourselves, and to choose a higher level of existence.

John Waterbury is a retired Clinical Mental Health Counselor who has lived in Utah since 1984 when he moved to Bountiful with his wife and four children. Since then, he has written a weekly column for several years for the Davis County Clipper titled “The Dear John Letters” which was also used throughout the intermountain West focusing on addiction and mental health problems. This new column will focus on mental health and life management issues.