Midrange Pathology

“I want to mention, almost as an aside, another side of this issue of normalcy. There seems to be one variant of midrange pathology, not extensively studied or well understood (especially in developmental terms), that blends into the woodwork, so to speak, and is difficult to discern. I am referring to persons who one might say are excessively “normal”. These people, called by some workers “normopaths,” “anti-analysands,” “robot analysands,” or “pseudonormals” suffering from a “normotic illness,” have been described by various authors, including Bollas (1989), McDougall (1980, especially chap. 13; 1985, p. 156), and McWilliams and Lependorf (1990).

“These are persons who, when looked at superficially or casually seem to function adequately but who on deeper, more careful examination are seen actually to be drastically cut off from their affective lives, and the result is a peculiar, horrifying “normality.” When one becomes sensitized to this other pole of severe pathology, one sees how prevalent it is in the “normal” population: “The fundamental identifying feature of this individual is his disinclination to entertain the subjective element in life, whether it exists inside himself or in the other” (Bollas, 1989, p. 319; from “Normotic Illness” in Fromm & Smith (eds.), The Facilitating Environment, pp. 317-44). The author goes on to present an evocative and chilling description of the normotic personality; it sounds like an apt description of a significant part of our population.

“As far as I know, this class of persons has not been studied diagnostically by means of mainstream frameworks and instruments (e.g., the MMPI, behavioral checklists), but I would not be surprised if these kinds of people would appear to be just fine when evaluated by such surface-oriented, structured tools. […] In sum, the possibility is very real that in empirical or experimental studies, the control group of “normals” is itself significantly pathological.”

Substance Abuse as Symptom
by Louis S. Berger
pp. 121–22


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