“Once you label me you negate me.” ~ Sören Kierkegaard
Have you ever noticed how people, and maybe even yourself, need to label stuff?
And did you also notice a huge relief when you got the label, diagnosis, opinion, a second opinion even…? That feeling of elation, albeit for a short time, when the label is given… It is a curious thing our need to label stuff, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the need to label? Why do we crave it so much, and what need or needs do we satisfy by labeling stuff, by giving it a diagnosis if you like?!
And isn’t it a great feeling when you chat with someone and you both arrive at the same labeling. A feeling of connection – that common labeling can only happen when you share a worldview.
This need to label, very likely satisfies several needs. A deep bound need to categorize reality in order to effectively handle it. Evolution is about survival. Survival is about predicting and understanding what is going on. Understanding is about labeling. Once you have labeled a phenomena you know how to deal with it. A label presupposes that you recognize the phenomena, it is the same as some other phenomena.
Yet, there is a huge drawback. Once you have labeled phenomena, you already think you know what you are dealing with. You essentially sacrifice your ability to discover new things about what you have labeled. Perception isn’t so much a matter of taking things in, as it is about projecting things out. The brain projects its expectations onto the world around it, and matches these expectations with the incoming stimuli.
And this is one of the dangers of which labeling is just the symptom. Some people get stuck so far inside the label making factories of the brain that no incoming stimuli ever reach them. At least nothing which would cause them to update their understanding of reality. Political, religious, and ideological fanatics, with readymade interpretations of whatever happens, come to mind.
Even more interesting are labels when applied to people. Because if you apply a label to yourself, you will not only interpret yourself in the terms of the label, but your actions may also be affected by it. And worse: this may even happen if you don’t agree with the label.
This may be the reason why Tao Te Ching starts with drawing up the distinction between what is spoken about and what is said. The things that can be said are not the things themselves. The road that can be described is not the road travelled. Our description of the world is not the world. The same sentiment was repeated much later by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The thing-in-itself is not the same as the thing-for-me. And later still in the tenets of NLP: the map is not the territory.
And the map may even limit one’s exploration of the territory. If Christopher Columbus had believed the world was flat, he would have avoided sailing towards the edge!
So with this in mind, may we invite you to start this week by exploring what certain labels, names, mean to you? How appropriate are they for your personal experience? Are they adding fragrance and richness to your life, or are they being given and accepted by default? Do they help you sail to the edge and beyond, or do they keep you running round in circles? Do they give you extra wind in your wings?
It would be interesting to hear what you experience in your label exploration journey :-)!
And remember, we are here for you!
Wishing you a wonderful week and sending you oceans of love,
Your label-free and free-flowing trainers,
Thomas and Lidija
Lidija Markovic– NLP Trainer (Classic & New Code)
Thomas Björge– NLP Trainer (Classic & New Code), NLP Coach
© Momentum Strategies 2013