From Normal Behavior to the Meaning of Life

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”Behavior — What is Normal?”


Q: Dear Dr. Gelb:

I know there are many normal ways of doing things, but some normal behavior is not always healthy, like littering or spitting on the sidewalk. Even though we have laws, so many are violated. Why are we so off track?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Normal:

I believe that a behavior that is considered normal in our society gains that identity because statistically that particular practice is what most people do. Just because behavior is considered “normal,” does not mean that it is proper or healthy.

When it comes to ethical and moral behavior, many people tend to take the path of least resistance. This is often a result of an undisciplined mind that has no motivation for positive social conduct. I believe that this is largely what ails our society today. In so many instances, discipline is absent in our schools or homes and our youth are free to live carelessly and selfishly, destroying what was once a relatively constructive and uniform way of life with rules that many abided by and were held accountable for.

”Destiny — What is It?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My 15-year-old is beginning to ask questions that I do not feel equipped to answer — things like what is her purpose on this planet. Yesterday, she asked me about spiritual destiny and death. I love that she reaches out, but I am not sure how to guide her.


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Concerned:

I can appreciate your interest in your child’s curiosity about destiny and death, and yes, it is difficult for parents to guide a child when they themselves have little concept of where they came from or where they go after death. Parents who were raised with some type of spiritual background tend to have an easier time discussing these issues.

As an immigrant to this country I find it interesting that many Americans appear to have been raised with this type of exposure, especially since the founding fathers, who provided the Constitution did so based on their belief in a God who would guide and protect our nation. Although extremists have attempted to destroy these concepts, it is my belief that they will survive attack.

Perhaps by now you are beginning to get my drift that to teach a child about the here and the hereafter parents need to have a frame of reference upon which to draw. When parents do not have such a foundation, it can be useful to work with some of the high-tech resources that are available, such as researching these issues on the Internet. I know of one family who educated themselves in this way, and after learning together about different paths of faith, they found the concepts and principles that they could live by. Such established methods of behavior can keep families in tact and nations strong.

Dear Readers:

Answers to questions in today’s column can be supplemented with excerpts from “Yesterday’s Children” written by psychologists Marti Barham, R.N., Ph.D. and Tom Greene, Ph.D. (pp. 1-2 for Answer 1; pp. 2-3 for Answer 2). For more information visit my Web site at

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

”’Email your questions to More information on Dr. Gelb’s services and related resources available at”’