[O]ne refrain runs through the series [EastEnders], mostly when things have come to a terrible pass, and that is the idea of normality. How, given the state of the world, can anyone be expected to build, live, maintain anything that can be seen as approaching a “normal” life? It is a common myth—a myth now in its neoliberal incarnation—that hard times are the exception, that perfection is something everyone can and should aim for, and that not being able to manage your life is a sign of individual failure, rather than, say, of structural inequality, or systematic racism. This is a fantasy of attainment—anyone can make it to the top—that is used to keep people in line. When Chelsea Atkins, Gray’s second wife and the mother of his newborn son, discovers the truth about her husband and plays her part in bringing him to justice, she is at first determined to give up her baby for adoption without trace, so that he will grow up with no idea of the past, will never find himself on the “internet searching his dad’s name”. All she wants, she tells her mother, is for him to have a “normal” family. “Just so you know,” her mother responds, “there is no such thing.” Or, as a psychotherapist once said to me, moments of stability where everything seems to fall into place, far from being the “norm” in any life, are more like interruptions.

Jacqueline Rose and Sam Frears, “You Haven’t Got Your Sister Pregnant, Have You?”

There are people who seem to enjoy a life relatively free of self-doubt. But there is no special moral advantage in that. People who have been pushed by circumstance or constitution to question who they are and what their place is in the world, often under really tough conditions, frequently have a richness of vision less apparent in those whose lives have been freer of inner conflict. Such richness of vision may not make their lives easier. On the contrary, it may make those people uncomfortably alert to how much they have in common with other human beings. But my own biases push me to say that such lives can seem more fully lived.

Stephanie Dowrick, Intimacy and Solitude: Balancing Closeness and Independence