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Stranger Times

The Growing Power of Weirdness

By Sean Zucker –

Are we getting weirder? That’s the question posed by CNN’s Allison Hope early last week. It’s a fair query given the excessive amount of time in the last year most of us have spent locked down inside the comforting confides of our homes. Many, if not most, of us haven’t exactly been breaking a sweat over exercising social skills. So, when things start to go back to normal, there may be a lot of interpersonal rust to shake off.

“All those months devoid of normal human contact compounded with navigating the trifecta of a global health crisis, economic uncertainty and political division, and a lot of us are a little (or a lot) weirder than we were a year ago,” writes Hope. The point is likely not misplaced, as several experts have suggested similar results since the first lockdown began.

Hope enlists input from Judith Zackson, a clinical psychologist based in Greenwich, Connecticut, who claims many of her clients have experienced swift personality changes, becoming more outspoken, picking up strange hobbies and developing sillier senses of humor.

“During a crisis and isolation, many take an inventory of their lives and dare to be themselves, and engage in weird, creative, and non-conforming patterns,” she told CNN.

Some increased weirdness may be far less quirky, not to mention less deliberate. In the early months of the pandemic, The New York Times suggested weird dreams were on the rise due to coronavirus’s stronghold on everyday life. For some, they’re reaching the point of absurdity.

“The surreal reality of American cities and towns also mirrors the half-remembered, half-empty approximations explored in sleep, ordered by the same pliable, foggy logic: Masks are pilloried until they are mandatory; liquor stores open early for sexagenarians only; an invisible plague makes people fall gravely ill seemingly at random; touching anything — everything — is banned,” it explained.

The New York Times also noted that while weird dreams were on the rise and seemingly manifesting in a more vivid manner, they weren’t any more suggestive than other dreams. It claimed dream analysis is elusive as it is inherently based on incomplete information. Dreaming takes place in tiny bursts roughly every 90 minutes during the R.E.M. stage of sleep.

Regardless of why, it is clear people are getting weirder. But being a weirdo has its perks.

Olga Khazan, author of Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World, in fact, described being weird as a near superpower, suggesting it can enhance creativity. A staff writer at The Atlantic, she specifically noted that being weird enhances an element of creativity called “integrative complexity.” People who are strong in integrative complexity tend to handle uncertainty well and excel at reconciling conflicting information. Additionally, they’re often able to see problems from multiple perspectives.

Khazan went on to note that individuals seen as weird by their culture are likely are more adept at handling rejection in a healthy manner, authentic manner than “normal” folks.

Forbes, to its credit, has previously promoted weirdness as a tool towards gaining a financial advantage, declaring it quite bankable. The business mag claims when someone is weird, they feel less pressure from competition as they’re usually already comfortable with who they are and where they are in their career. It allows for them to focus more solely on excelling professionally.

“Weirdness, by its very definition, is a deviation from the norm—the opposite of a commodity. Weird makes its own markets. Weirdness makes its own rules. Weirdness provides breathing room and leverage,” it explains.

Additionally, Forbes notes being weird makes a person memorable, which is an irreplaceable trait in fields crowded with competition and faceless coworkers fighting for advancement.

Ultimately, don’t freak if the lockdown means the peculiar is becoming commonplace and the jiggy has become the new norm. Instead, heed the advice of American treasure Meryl Streep:  “What makes you different or weird—that’s your strength.”







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