The Bed of Procrustes

It’s time for another “Favorite Words” – something I haven’t done in quite a while. And I’ll combine it with “Useful Aphorisms”

This is more of a phrase than a word per se, although the adjective Procrustean will do just fine in a pinch.

Wikipedia actually has a good article on the phrase’s mythological origins and some of its uses here. Long story short: it signifies enforced conformity by referring to a famous host/bandit who invited travelers to stay the night and then trapped them on an iron bed; if they were too short for the bed, they were stretched until they fit, and if too long the excess was chopped off.

To be “normal” is a splendid ideal for the unsuccessful, for all those who have not yet found an adaption. But for people who have far more ability than the average, for whom it was never hard to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world’s work–for them restriction to the normal signifies the bed of Procrustes, unbearable boredom, infernal sterility and hopelessness. As a consequence there are many people who become neurotic because they are only normal, as there are people who are neurotic because they cannot become normal. For the former, the very thought that you want to educate them to normality is a nightmare; their deepest need is really to be able to lead “abnormal” lives.

– Carl Jung, “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”

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