…feel the way I’m feeling? If you want to fall into an excellent “Google black hole,” type the following words into Google search: Is it normal to…
Google will fill in what other Google users have searched for, when they’ve been unsure of whether the way they’re feeling or the way they’re reacting to something is normal.
In psychology terms, this inquiry is called “reality testing.” It’s taking yourself out of a situation and looking at it objectively.
I have a great trick for reality testing any given situation. If I step back and look at my twenty-something years on earth, I think this is one of the most helpful things I’ve learned. (It’s tied with, “Not everything you think is true” for the #1 spot.) If you want to ascertain whether your feelings or your reaction to something is normal, ask yourself:
In a group of 100 people my age and my gender, how many would have the reaction I’m having?
In a group of 100 people my age and my gender, how many would feel the way I’m feeling?
When I do this exercise, I close my eyes and imagine being in a large yoga class, with women stretching on mats lined up in neat rows. (A yoga class was the first thing I thought of, when I was trying to picture 100 women my age and my gender in the same location, in pursuit of peace and clarity. It stuck). But take the visualization wherever it works best for you: a busy city street, a sports arena, an airplane, or Grand Central Terminal. Anywhere where you can picture 100 people.
What’s awesome about this exercise is that it provides pretty instant clarity.
If you say, “In a room of 100 people my age and my gender, how many would feel the way I’m feeling?” usually, your brain will serve up a clear answer, such as:
“…Only the ones who have OCD.”
“…Only the ones who tend to be high-anxiety.”
“…Most of them!”
Try it, the next time you’re asking yourself, Is it normal to… Not only does this exercise help right away with your current situation, but it also builds this valuable muscle. With enough repetition, you may not need to ask, Is it normal to…? Instead, you’ll instinctively know if what you’re feeling is appropriate for the situation you’re in.
Let me know if this approach works for you!