Neurodivergence: the New Normal?
Hear me out…What if Neurodivergence/Neurodiversity is actually NORMAL?
Let’s begin this conversation by defining these terms…
Neurodivergence is the term for an individual whose brain functions differently in one or more ways than what is considered standard or typical function.
Neurodiversity describes a group of people whose neurotype differs from the neurotypical majority…
So these are two terms that ultimately describe the same thing — only one is applied to an individual, because a person can diverge, and the other to a group of people, because [groups of] people can be diverse.
I cannot speak for who, what, or how normal looked in the past. Science-past decided that ‘normal’ existed and that it looked a certain way based on what was (then) considered standard or typical function.
And perhaps ‘normal’ did look a certain way in the past, or perhaps the science was limited then and is now outdated…it’s not really for me to say which is most accurately applied to this inquiry, as I was not part of past scientific study or defining of what is/was considered neurotypical.
To be clear, neurotypical is defined as a lack of autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior, aka “normal”.[thanks Oxford dictionary!]
In the modern world of non-stop sensory input and systems fraught with toxic culture, beliefs, and behavior and exposure to ongoing threats whether it’s from pandemics, threat of war, or watching the local weather (I don’t know what your meteorologist reports, but, what was once a straight-forward, factually stated informative segment of the news that reported observed weather patterns is now advertising in my area that they “report all the threats” even when the weather is mild, which is often is in my area)…it’s no wonder so many people seem to present with some form of neurodiversity.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at some common forms of neurodivergence. Neurodivergence includes, but not limited to:
- Trauma, PTSD and cPTSD
- ADD, ADHD
- Down syndrome
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
I have personally been diagnosed with four of these types of neurodivergence. I do not personally or professionally know anyone who doesn’t have one of these forms of neurodivergence diagnosed, or at least suspected.
I realize I haven’t met most of the population, so I present this food for thought as food for thought, rather than fact. It is a conversation that serves multiple purposes, including:
- Helping people better understand themselves, their response/reactions, and their needs
- Helping people better accept themselves as they are (which is WONDERFUL just as you are, btw)
- Helping people access support resources that help them navigate the world WITH their neurodivergent tendencies so that they aren’t as much a limitation, burden, or barrier as they are a natural part of their humanness
- Help end the stigma of mental health issues, special needs, and/or being ‘different’
- Contribute to the dismantling of toxic systems of racism, ableism, and other -isms that impact people/groups who are not seen as ‘normal’
As a trauma-aware practitioner who is also neurodivergent, I have to consider the probability that all people are neurodivergent, resulting in neurodiversity being ‘normal’ or the ‘new normal’, if you prefer that language. I hope that by sharing my thoughts on this topic, it will encourage more conversation and consideration in both individuals, as well as among professionals. It is intended to encourage neurodivergent persons to consider a new perspective of or way of thinking about themselves.
We all have a ‘story’ of who we are that is held within our subconscious mind. This subconscious story of us is written through our early experiences, repetitive messages/conditioning, repetitive feelings, and what others tell us about ourselves through the lens of their own experiences, pain and limitations…
The story of us is essentially what we subconsciously believe to be true about us, us in relation to others, the world, our place in the world, who/how we are, what rules/expectations we apply, and our value/worth… A shift in even ONE part of our story can have a HUGE impact on our health/wellbeing, comfort, and ability to navigate in the world. Specifically, a shift or rewrite of your neurodivergent story, or of neurodiversity as the norm, as one of power and connectedness rather than one of separateness and abnormality can have a huge impact on how a person sees themselves, interacts with others, and the choices/actions they take toward meeting their needs.
Whether or not this conversation I’m initiating in this essay about neurodivergence or neurodiversity being normal in the present tense leads to any scientifically backed outcome or not, exploring this topic individually allows us to choose a new way to see and accept ourselves or an opportunity to seek support in consciously redefining how we see ourselves and our neurotypes. It increases our potential to heal, transcend limitations, embody our authentic selves fully, shine our light into the world, and feel SAFE in the world.
The modern world in which we live provides a constant stream of sensory input that puts our nervous systems on high alert or ‘protective mode’. This is a stress/trauma response which is exactly how our human bodies are supposed to function, except that our protector systems haven’t adapted to the modern world overload that it perceives as a threat or ongoing stressor. It is still functioning as though our threats and stress are only occasional, like our early ancestors would have experienced, which is why it is absolutely possible for all people to have some form of neurodiversity.
There are many factors that cause neurodivergence, including, but not limited to: genetic, experiential, systemic, and environmental. Receiving millions of Gb of data and perceiving approx 34 Gb of data via all your sensory receptors, not only the 5 physical senses, daily can create sensory overload — especially if you’re juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, as so many of us have to do in order to survive the systems we live and operate within. In addition to the modern-day information overload is marginalization, which involves a significant amount of ever-present stress. There is also the pressures of a toxic capitalist culture that tells us we have to do more in less time and constantly hustle, as well as a lack of personal resources or access to support which can also contribute to neurodivergence. I’m certain there are plenty more factors I could add to this list which are commonly experienced by many to a variety of degrees and intersections…
My point is that we must consider that neurodivergence (one) and neurodiversity (many) is actually what is now normal…
I’d love to hear what YOU think….and let’s discuss this with an open mind and open hearts!
Have you been diagnosed with some form of neurodiverse/neurodivergence? Do you suspect you are neurodivergent, although no formal diagnosis has been made? Do you know anyone who *for certain* does not have a diagnosis that falls within neurodivergence? What do you think is normal? Do you think there is a stigma associated with neurodivergence? If so, do you think that exploring a ‘New Normal’ could help reduce that stigma? Do you struggle to navigate your neurodivergent tendencies? Have you accepted or embraced your neurodivergence? Do you struggle to feel ‘normal’? Do you think/feel that neurodiversity IS normal?
Let’s continue this conversation!!