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Why “Getting Back to Normal” is the Biggest Mistake You Can Make


When we are sick, depressed, traumatised, grieving, in shock, we long to “get back to normal”… to get back to the way things were before.

We yearn for it. And most people around us seem to be urging us to as well.

We long for solid ground. For doing not feeling. For being functional and contributing. For not impinging on the goodwill of others. To feel calm and whole and good.

To feel safe.

Most of all we long to feel safe again. To believe that the world and its people are familiar and friendly. That our body is a safe place to be. That we are, as we used to believe, in control of our own destinies…

Rather than being a passenger on a cruel and stomach churning rollercoaster ride with no safety harness that we didn’t ask to get on… and we can’t get off.

We try to get back to normal. For our own sakes. And the sakes of those we love.  And we can’t. It feels false, like going through the motions.

Because it is.

Old normal no longer exists. (And old normal is what got us here in the first place…)

We are numb. Our bodies and emotions frozen and in shock. Happiness is a far distant land. Appetite, desire, motivation, joy foreign languages. We marvel in disbelief as to how we ever loved what we did, when we have not an iota of desire for it now. Food, books, favourite movies, friends…

Everything is nothing.

Because everything that was “us” before, has been thrown up in the air, broken into a million pieces – I get a sense that whilst this is a metaphorical way of explaining the dissolution of trauma, it is also in fact a literal explanation, our physical and soul bodies are in states of disintegration and healing. We cannot force normal… not for long anyway without further disintegration down the line.

The problem with disintegration is it isn’t a clock watcher. In fact it doesn’t respect working days, sick leave limitations, religious holidays… it just keeps on going… until you surrender yourself fully.

Until you let go of getting back to normal.

Because the truth that you sense is in fact the reality that everyone including you are in denial of: old normal doesn’t exist any more. That’s the reality you’re running from.

Getting back to doing things as you’ve always done them doesn’t take away the newly integrated facts – the illness, the loss, the cause of the trauma.

The only way we can heal is by first finding safety. Soothing safety to allow our bodies and minds to be sustained free from panic and fear. Safety so that we can unfreeze. Nurturing, nourishing safety. Only then can we begin to unfurl. Only then can finding a new normal – CREATING a new normal –  really begin.  A normality that integrates our new reality – internal and external.

But in order to get there we cannot force. Rather we must do the opposite – surrender. Fully. Give ourselves permission to surrender to our new reality, our new selves, exactly as we are now… not how we wish it would be… Loving acceptance. And we need others’ permission too – our bosses, partner’s, families’, friends’ permission to fully surrender to the process. To step out of our heads and into the dynamic, disorienting flow of our bodies, and surrender – surrender to not having the answers, to being afraid, to not knowing the future…

And when we finally reach it, this new normal, we see that everything is changed. Internal. External… and yet, when we accept this, we can then see how much everything is also the same.

The threads of the old run through this new reality in small ways and big… the comfort blanket of your old reality is here after all, just freshly washed in the laundry of life by Big Momma without your permission! The yogurt stains and daily grime washed out, a ragged bit trimmed off there, the hole stitched up, a different smell… same, same but different as they say in Thailand.

If you, or someone you know, are in a liminal place of transition might now you might like some of my recent writings:

My guestpost yesterday on Spirit Moving: Trusting the Dark


Learning to Fly

A Creative Leap of Faith

Not Normal