Everyone is different in their own way. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) is fascinating reading for any layperson. It lists the diagnostic criteria for psychiatric disorders. You’re sure to find friends, relatives, classmates, coworkers and maybe even yourself described somewhere in this tome.
Astute physicians can find something abnormal in any patient. If we order enough tests on a healthy person, we’re sure to find some value out of the normal range, most often with no clinical significance.
In adolescence, we just want to fit in. To be cool would be great; just to feel normal would be fine. The need to fit in continues into adulthood. To get that feeling, many congregate into their own narrowed social groups, not unlike a high school clique. They become part of the in group; everyone else is out and treated accordingly. To see others as different or strange can make us feel superior, and we stop treating them as real people.
We consider ours a tolerant society. As former U.S. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey said, “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
We have policies to accommodate the disabled, we try to protect the vulnerable, we accept diverse languages and cultures, but as individuals and cultural subgroups, how tolerant are we?
Next: What are your biases? We all have them. If you think you don’t, you may need to dig deep.