In this society, the “norm” is a very powerful bias. It creates fear of not being it, fear of being it, and whom people instinctually protect as one of their own.
Sometimes you feel more alert in some crowd than others? Or more exhausted? That’s often because we are implicitly gauging safety based on what the norm is moment to moment.
We often ask the question like “is this space safe?” But we don’t mean if every single person is safe. We ask if there are enough safe people there (“norm”) to mitigate any unsafe people.
And this is why setting your own norm is so important for your mental health and for community building.
See, a few random bigots are just a few random bigots. A few performative allies. A few white-on-inside peers. They don’t impact the norm of your space. But if you’re not careful, they quickly reach the critical mass to set the norm within your circle.
People who used to be in tune with you shift away. You start to shift.
If you have to spend a lot of time in unsafe spaces, reset your norm by talking to people who align with your values. When you’re alone with them, you two are the norm, and you can neutralize any dissonant or gaslighting elements. In my personal experience, this is why “venting” or “debriefing” is so powerful.