Dropping the labelling means that we cease putting our experiences in a box.
We have to stop giving experiences shape, form and meaning because we limit them in this way. This sorting and labelling habit makes it hard to transmute what happened when the flow demands fluidity – and it does, constantly, of everything, because everything always changes.
Take name, form and meaning away and things are freed to change shape. When we let a situation be without naming it, enormous power is suddenly available to us. The contraction which labelling causes, cuts us off from that power. Once we go beyond the stereotypical labels of events, we are free to experience their gifts. Our experiences then no longer have names and forms which we relate to with our desires and fears.
An unhelpful label
Here’s an example out of my own life. My mom naturally started dating again after my dad left, and I don’t know how, but it happened on more than one occasion that her dates visited me during the day or just before she came home in the evening – under various pretexts. This was before schools added good touch – bad touch education to their syllabusses, so I had no idea what to make of these visits. I must emphasize that I was never raped nor forced to do anything. The dynamic was more subtle: I felt that I shouldn’t make a fuss over ‘nothing’ so as not to ruin my mom’s chances with these men. I sensed how badly she needed a new relationship. The overriding feeling I had, however, was one of pity. I felt sorry for them that they felt so lonely that they had to resort to this strange behaviour.
I did not speak up for a long time about these experiences, but as I got older, I remember showing one of them, ironically a school teacher, the door in a very firm manner when I realized what his intentions were and recall how good it felt to finally put that boundary in place.
Some time later I did share these experiences with a friend half in jest and I was surprised at the shock and anger of her response. Suddenly, my strange, but to me largely insignificant experiences carried the newly-discovered label of “sexual molestation” – big and scary with implications of potential scarring for life. I often wonder whether I should rather have kept quiet, because this label was much more difficult to live with. It demanded that instead of pity, I should feel anger and hatred – which I did not feel and also did not want to feel. Life is not black and white.
Labelling has huge power over our health too. I am sure that if I went to the doctor right now, he or she would pick up stuff in my system. This is purely because there always is. For instance, the body always has cancer cells. What doctors generally don’t take into consideration, however, is our ability to cure ourselves. When they make a diagnosis, they solidify something that is by nature fluid. They turn a process into a state by giving it shape, form and meaning. Diagnosis smacks of finality and entrenches a sense of powerlessness in the ‘victim’ of the dis-ease. The result: at a time when we most need to be in tune with our body in order to heal, we are separated from it while a chemical or surgeon’s knife takes over.
Keep an open mind
All the ‘bad’ things that happen are of our own choosing. Our mistake is not in choosing them, but in calling them bad. We need to apply the “no name, form and meaning” principle to all challenging situations. Only when we start dropping the labelling, when we stop paying attention to what images a situation conjures up for us, are we able to see it as it really is. For clear perception, therefore, we need to see things without mental-emotional content. When we take a non-reactive stance to events, what we would have called bad before, no longer is and often it turns around quickly.
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How simple life would be without the little stories we tell ourselves. ‘It’s horribly wet’; ‘He did not have the decency to call’; ‘She did not bother to show up’. We simply say. ‘It is raining’; ‘He did not call’; ‘I was there, she was not’.
Lastly and most importantly, we need to be less hard on ourselves. We haven’t made as many mistakes in our lives as we think we have, if any. Most probably, we did the best we could given where we were at, with what we knew at the time and the tools we had available to us then.