The meaning of a label

We are handed labels from the moment that we are born, from what sex we are to the name we will carry for life. Through our youth, our family, friends, schools and general society continue to hand us labels. It could be argued that our adolescence, where many become ‘rebellious’, is the time we decide for ourselves which labels we are happy to keep. In the therapy room, we are often dealing with clients who are trying to break free of these labels or finding themselves limited by them.

As a therapist the use of labels and our desire to categorise our clients needs to be done with great care. Although for some learning that the feelings they are experiencing are due to anxiety may be a great relief, for another it may be another crippling label or stigma to carry. As much as possible we should allow the clients to stumble on the labels they are happy to adopt and in the process discuss their views of the ones they discard. We can also in this process discuss the labels they hand others and how this may impact them. Change is difficult for many people and when someone removes and throws away a label they have carried for some time it may be hard for others to accept.

Understanding the labels that we have adopted or that others have imposed can help lead to a better way of life. A label, after all, is just a label, the meaning is what we each put on it individually. Be mindful that the meaning of a label can be very different to each and every one of us.

What labels will you choose?

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