I was listening to Jordan Peterson’s lecture on the psychological significance of the flood story and he said something that cause me to pause and think about it. He said,

Once you’re labelled as a something, then strange things happen around you that often reinforce that label.

Of course, some of those strange things happen inside you, inside your head that skew your thinking to be somewhat constrained to fit the label. Should that be important? It is significant but I am not sure it should be important. After all before you walked into the office, or wherever the label was introduced, you were not thinking or acting in accordance with it. It was only after it was bestowed on you that your thinking changed.

Other things can happen that are external, like the way in which people you’ve known for a while, perhaps a long while, begin to relate to you once they are aware of your label. I’ve noticed this. I have become a somewhat different person for some people now. They react in accord with what they think or expect your label to mean. Sick? Well, there may be more compassion, more whispered conversations while you are present? Doors are opened for you more often. Some people no longer ask, “How are you?”, not wanting a real answer. Labeled a dishonest person, a liar? Some people you’ve known for a while no longer want to talk with you. Your invitations to gatherings and social events are fewer or stop altogether. Wealthy? The number of new friends and acquaintances suddenly increase. Solicitations for sponsorship or support arrive. People who already are wealthy are more friendly now.

If you learn that you have a serious condition to deal with, which is how I appreciate my own condition, then many people will bring their own ideas of what that might mean to them to their relationships with you. I think this is not unusual. What is unusual is that most people don’t show much curiosity and invite honest and forthright conversation about it. This is also not unexpected.

I am trying to be on the lookout for this phenomena and to reduce it when possible. I’m not my label. It’s another thing I have to deal with like all of the other unpleasant but rather ordinary episodes of life. And, like those other episodes, it is a learning experience. I will attempt to chronicle some of them here. Comments are welcome.


Author: Michael Douglas Scott

Writer, Anthropologist, Computer Scientist, Historian, Independent Centrist, Veteran, Husband, Father, Cancer Survivor

2 thoughts on “Labels”

  1. I just read something by Brené Brown on this subject & I have also experienced the different reactions people have depending on a label- positive or negative. It can be frustrating. We are not our illness, job, political affiliation, or position. I am me.

  2. So true. I think we can fall into this without realizing it. I am trying to be more aware. Thanks for your comment I hope all is well with you and yours. Maybe we will see you this summer.

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