Day 201: Naming vs. Labeling

This year, I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety.

That’s one of the kashmillion things, it seems, that I’m working on, during Our Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. Another thing I’m working on this year is focusing on what I AM doing, rather than on what I am NOT doing. That effective coping strategy is just another way of being more present in the moment.

Speaking about focusing, in the moment….)

I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety, this year, for these reasons:

  1. I am a psychotherapist, who does group and individual work at a large teaching hospital.
  2. As one of the Primary Care doctors in my practice described it, anxiety is “an epidemic among the people we see.”
  3. As I’ve mentioned here, anxiety is sometimes a sign that something is very important, and the work I’m doing is very important to me.
  4. Hospitals can be a PTSD trigger for me, because I spent a lot of time, as a child, in the hospital, undergoing heart surgeries and other scary things, often alone.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I like to acknowledge when somebody does something new.

The New is always risky, and deserves recognition, don’t you agree?

Here’s something new I just did, in this blog.

I used the term PTSD.

Time for my old friend, Google:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.

Another gift, from Google Images:

Image

(That image, above, which I chose just because I liked it best? Turns out it’s from a blog called “PTSD after Open Heart Surgery. Go figure.)

Here’s a third gift from Google, regarding PTSD:

A helpful description of PTSD from NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health):

Yes, I do love Google. Let me count the ways:

  1. When I am writing this blog, I can use Google to search for definitions and images to help support, clarify, and enrich my topic.
  2. Google gives me a large and varied choice, in response.
  3. I have the control to choose what I want.

I like having lots of choices and options.

I also like having the control to name things, in a way that helps me. As I’ve written about in this blog, naming something is the first step to recognizing and accepting it. (And acceptance — which doesn’t mean liking or approving– is the first step towards change.)

Naming is very different from labeling.

Labeling is one of the 12 Cognitive Distortions in CBT:

Labeling or Name-calling. We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure”, or an “idiot.” Labels are not only self-defeating, they are irrational, simplistic, and untrue. Human beings are complex and fallible, and in truth cannot be reduced to a label. Consider this: we all breathe, but would it make sense to refer to ourselves as “Breathers”?

While naming is helpful, expansive, and generous, labeling is not.

Labeling is restrictive. Labeling is judgmental. Labeling can cause paralysis and pain.

Very different from naming.

Diagnoses, at times, can be a kind of labeling. I work with people who have diagnoses of PTSD, and I see the effects of stigma attached to that diagnosis (and other diagnoses, too).

But diagnoses can also be a kind of helpful naming, too.

People, when they receive a diagnosis, often express relief. I hear people say that a diagnosis helps to contain and clarify their experience.

And, it helps to identify options. And identify next steps.

Like with my old friend, Google.

Okay! Time to put this blog post to bed, so I can start getting ready for my high school reunion tonight (where I’m looking forward to seeing other old friends).

Thanks to Google, my friends, my high school reunion, my readers, and everybody and everything else that is helping me, so much, on this year’s journey.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Day 201: Naming vs. Labeling

  1. Hi Ann,
    Great great points you mention there!
    1. I agree with you 100% re Google. Cannot imagine being without. Google is my SOURCE.
    2. And yes, diagnoses are definitely a type of labeling. But as you say, and this was exactly the case with my son: receiving the (correct) diagnosis (of having schizophrenia in his case) brought about an immense relief, because finally he/we knew WHAT we are dealing with and how to go about treating & coping.
    3. And yes, of course I agree with this : “The New is always risky, and deserves recognition….” Congrats on the PTSD!

    Enjoy meeting up with old classmates.
    My son and I are now going to go looking for badgers here in the area. We both love (wild) animals.
    Heila

  2. findingmyinnercourage

    You absolutely Blogged some great points! So many things to think about!

  3. I can definitely relate to this post! I get very anxious when I have to do things I don’t like 😦

  4. Pingback: Day 657: What Counts | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  5. Pingback: Day 1072: One label fits all | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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