Shattering The Boundaries of Your World & Self

Alain de Botton on the Myth of Normalcy and the Importance of Breakdowns
“Crisis… is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and constitutes an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis.”

The moment we begin to see that there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives, we cease being captive to the myth of normalcy — the cultural tyranny that tells us there are a handful of valid ways to be human and demands of us to contort into these accepted forms of being. But the great hoax is that they are Platonic forms — the real reduced beyond recognition into the ideal, an ideal too narrow and symmetry-bound to account for the spacious, uneven, gloriously shambolic reality of being what we are.

Maria Popova

A breakdown is not merely a random piece of madness or malfunction; it is a very real — albeit very inarticulate — bid for health and self-knowledge. It is an attempt by one part of our mind to force the other into a process of growth, self-understanding and self-development that it has hitherto refused to undertake. If we can put it paradoxically, it is an attempt to jump-start a process of getting well — properly well through a stage of falling very ill.


In the midst of a breakdown, we often wonder whether we have gone mad. We have not. We’re behaving oddly, no doubt, but beneath the agitation we are on a hidden yet logical search for health. We haven’t become ill; we were ill already. Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and constitutes an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis. It belongs, in the most acute and panicked way, to the search for self-knowledge.

Alain de Botton

Alas, it is our basic psychological need of wanting to belong, to “fit in”, that drives us to conform and bury aspects of ourselves, thus preventing the world from seeing who we truly are, deep down inside. Not until we awaken to the fact that we are not belonging but rather conforming to society, do we step beyond it and begin to learn to belong to a larger sense of Self within us. Brené Brown describes this as True Belonging.

I’ve likened this post-traumatic growth experience and feeling to being cataclysmic, in that it rocks the stability of your world because your sense of self is destabilizing, so it can broaden itself. In the process though, new lands emerge from the ocean of you, expanding the world that is you, letting you explore a larger sense of being that was previously hidden from you.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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