A recently bereaved friend, Laura and I were having a chat and the subject of her new and unwelcome title of ‘widow’ came up. Further discussion revealed that Laura had other titles. She was also a mum, step-mum, sister, grannie, aunt, neighbour, friend, golf partner and cousin, to name just a few she could claim. Titles can also be labels.
*I have known people who have shared the same illness/disability, but the difference in managing their situation arises from their attitude. The people who live entirely in the role as a victim will not have as a fulfilled life, as the people to whom the illness/disability is only part of who they are.
Unhelpful labels that were given to us as children need to be challenged too.
* One of my first clients presented with anxiety problems. Almost immediately he explained that when he was a little boy, his mother used to introduce him to people they met as, "This is Peter, he's our anxious one." It had stuck with him all his life, but now he wanted to get rid of the label. Probably one of the most common labels from childhood, that adults can still feel attached to is, "you're stupid." It's so important to look at the context. Who said it? Why? What was going on? Is it really necessary to still keep that label now? Throwaway comments made by parents, relatives, teachers and siblings can be extraordinarily unhelpful, if the child keeps them into adulthood. It can be a comment that hurt deeply, but as an adult with emotional maturity, we can see the fuller picture and see the comment for what it was.
Unfortunately, we are given to recall the few negative words spoken in the millions we're heard over the years, rather than the positive ones. I'm reminded of an advertisement some years ago, with a cartoon demon character attempting to stop an adult taking a training course by whispering negative comments in her ear. It can happen to us every day and we need to blow raspberries at the demons and tell them to go away - strongly!