Sunday, April 17, 2016

What came first; the labeling or the estrangement?

I hate labels. I think they pigeonhole people more than they help people. 

People start to think of themselves in terms of the label instead of as people first. 

You are not depression, you are not a victim, you are not bipolar, you are not mentally ill.  You are a person first and foremost and always you are person first.  You have symptoms of spiritual or emotional un-wellness, usually brought on by life events. But you are not those symptoms, rather they are something you are coping and dealing with.  

When you become your “label”, other people, as well as you, start to see you only in terms of that label.  None of your other assets or virtues matter. 

If you think of yourself as depressed, then that becomes the focus of how you see yourself. 
If you see yourself as a victim that is all that you start to see about yourself.
When you label yourself based on a psychological list you start to think only in terms of the items on the list, you focus on what is “wrong with you” rather than what is “RIGHT with you”

Then it follows that others in your life only focus on your faults as well, whether because they associate with the faults because they too have labeled you or because they pick up on your own focus makes no difference.  You become defined by your label.

There is also a growing trend to “labelize people”.  By this I mean, they go to the psychology sites and read lists.  Then they label and put the people they know into lists according to those labels.  So now they have all kinds of people in their narcissist list or their depressed list etc. etc.  The problem of course with these lists is they focus only on the negative qualities.  

So now all their acquaintances, friends, even family are reduced to the sum total of the negative qualities.  All the good qualities (which do not appear on any lists) are overlooked.  People are now labeled as toxic and are shunned or distanced based on a list written by psychologists to try and help people recognize their baser qualities and learn from them and from there to work towards improvement. 

Instead, these teaching lists have become a tool to pigeon hole people, for ostracizing people, for rejecting people.  Instead of compassion, empathy and understanding, instead of working together, healing together and helping; our labels serve to divide, to create a barrier between “them and us.”

In this climate poor Eeyore would not be included in activities with his friends because they do not want to be around depression, his negative attitude is one to be excluded from the group because part of how he sees the world is gloomy.  In this climate "Eeyore is depression", he is no longer seen as an individual with a wide range of other characteristics. 

I think we need to recognize that people are packages of many characteristics.  While we are all tarnished by some bad characteristics, we must  however remember that most of the characteristics are good!

This range is what makes us all unique.  We all carry with us symptoms that stem from our experiences, some more than others, but we are all complex creatures.  I believe we need to reverse this current trend, we need to be less judgmental, less prone to pigeon holing people based on labels.  Labeling divides us rather than bringing us together.

Rather than dividing and separating we need communication and understanding, we need inclusion with boundaries.  We need awareness yes, but we also need to find a balance between ostracizing people for their character faults and helping them see those flaws and giving them options for healing. 

We can only do this if we learn that labels are dehumanizing.  We can only do this if we take our knowledge beyond categorizing our friends by “lists” and start using that knowledge to encouraging growth and transformation in our friends. 

  • We can’t do that through punishment and ostracizing and segregating.  
  • We can’t do this with manipulation and control.
  • We can't do this on a "them versus us" battleground.  

Rather we must learn to do this with love, with compassion, with a focus on communication and learning.  Healing is something we all need to engage in, some of us more than others, but healing together with the support of loved ones is more fruitful that healing in isolation and the seclusion of being boxed in and discarded over a “label”. 

I would love to hear your thoughts or how you have been affected by "labeling". 

Renate Dundys Marrello

2016 – 04 – 17

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  1. I'm confused about the post you wrote. I have some of the challenges, I don't call them labels, that you mention in your post. I struggle with a lot of things, most of all, being a rejected parent, who has lost all contact with her daughters, not because of anything I did, but because my girls were victimized since they were little, and I was a victim as well. My challenges are just a few pieces of myself, which I refer to as a pie. My life is a pie, with many segments that don't make me a label. Maybe you can expound on your post. Thanks

    1. I started my post with the thought that many estranging offspring label us as "crazy" or "narcissistic" etc etc. They label us based on what they perceive to be our "defects". Then because they have labeled us they justify their actions of detaching from us.

      Often then as hurt parents we turn around and "label" our offspring based on the behaviour they have demonstrated.

      The point being that either way this is wrong behaviour. People are people they are not the labels we put on them.

      In this context, calling yourself a "victim" is a label. I would say you are a person who has been victimized.

      My posts are not meant to be an answer, they are meant to open the mind up to posing more questions. I believe that in posing questions, in looking at things from a different perspective we can start to see points of view that change our thought processes.

      Healing from estrangement requires that we start to think of ourselves differently, to change the "labels". For example when we identify with being rejected we start to see ourselves as "reject" that becomes a label in that this is who we identify with. You are not "rejected" you are a person who was rejected. In the healing mind this is a huge and significant difference. In one you see yourself as "a reject" in the other you see it as an action that was done to you.

      As with all my writing. take from it what works for you and disregard the rest :)

      Sometimes things make better sense when you are at a different stage of healing. Sometimes things just are not meant to resonate with you.

      I wish you well on your healing journey.